over a barrel


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*over a barrel

Fig. out of one's control; in a dilemma. (*Typically: get someone ~; have someone ~; put someone ~.) He got me over a barrel, and I had to do what he said. Ann will do exactly what I say. I've got her over a barrel.
See also: barrel

over a barrel

in a situation in which someone has no choice about what to do The software company has you over a barrel – if you don't accept the license, you can't use the software.
Usage notes: usually used with have, as in the example
Etymology: based on the idea of making someone lie on a barrel (a large, curved container) so they will be unable to move freely
See also: barrel

over a barrel

In a weak or difficult position, as in Once the competitors found a flaw in our product, they had us over a barrel. This slangy expression, first recorded in 1938, supposedly alludes to reviving a drowning victim by placing the body head down over a barrel and rolling it back and forth, so as to empty the lungs of water. The expression survives, although happily the practice does not.
See also: barrel

over a barrel

In a very awkward position from which extrication is difficult: During the negotiations the opposing faction had us over a barrel.
See also: barrel