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be off the rails

1. To be in a state of chaos, dysfunction, or disorder. Our project has been off the rails ever since the manager up and quit last month.
2. To be crazy, eccentric, or mentally unhinged. I think you should cut back on your drinking—you were totally off the rails last night!
See also: off, rail

ride the rail(s)

To travel on a vehicle mounted on rails (especially a train or streetcar). I know it takes a lot longer than flying, but I love riding the rail from Portland to Vancouver. People often romanticize riding the rails across the country as hobos did during the Great Depression, but I doubt many would actually find much pleasure in it.
See also: ride

be (as) thin as a rail

To be extremely skinny or slender. Primarily heard in US. Have you seen Claire lately? I'm really worried about her, she's as thin as a rail! I've always been thin as a rail, even when I tried to gain weight.
See also: rail, thin

rail against someone or something

to complain vehemently about someone or something. Why are you railing against me? What did I do? Leonard is railing against the tax increase again.
See also: rail

rail at someone (about something)

to complain loudly or violently to someone about something. Jane railed at the payroll clerk about not having received her check. I am not responsible for your problems. Don't rail at me!
See also: rail

go off the rails

also run off the rails
to be spoiled by bad management Things were going off the rails here, and no one was getting any work done. This is a well-intentioned system that has been run off the rails.
Etymology: from the idea of a train leaving the rails (metal bars) it travels on
See also: off, rail

be back on the rails

to be making progress once more The minister emerged from three hours of discussions, confident that the talks are now back on the rails. (British)
See also: back, rail

go off the rails

to start behaving strangely or in a way that is not acceptable to society He went off the rails in his twenties and started living on the streets. By the law of probabilities if you have five kids, one of them's going to go off the rails.
See also: off, rail

be as thin as a rake

  (British, American & Australian) also be as thin as a rail (mainly American)
to be very thin He eats like a horse and yet he's as thin as a rake. She's as thin as a rail from all that running.
See also: rake, thin

off the rails

In an abnormal or malfunctioning condition, as in Her political campaign has been off the rails for months. The phrase occurs commonly with go, as in Once the superintendent resigned, the effort to reform the school system went off the rails . This idiom alludes to the rails on which trains run; if a train goes off the rails, it stops or crashes. [Mid-1800s]
See also: off, rail

thin as a rail

Very slender, as in I do not know why she's dieting; she's thin as a rail already. This simile, which uses rail in the sense of "a narrow bar," has largely replaced such other versions as thin as a lath or rake, although the latter is still common in Britain. [Second half of 1800s]
See also: rail, thin

third rail

Something that is dangerous to tamper with, as in Anything concerning veterans is a political third rail. This term alludes to the rail that supplies the high voltage powering an electric train, so called since 1918. On the other hand, grab hold of the third rail means "become energized." Both shifts from the original meaning date from the late 1900s.
See also: rail, third

rail against

To protest something vehemently, especially using strong language: The students railed against the change to a longer school year.
See also: rail

rail at

To criticize someone or something in harsh, bitter, or abusive language: The workers railed at the new contract that cut medical benefits.
See also: rail


1. n. a story or argument; a story intended to seduce someone. (see also lines.) Don’t feed me that line. Do you think I was born yesterday?
2. and rail n. a dose of finely cut cocaine arranged in a line, ready for insufflation or snorting. Let’s you and me go do some lines, okay? The addict usually “snorts” one or two of these “rails” with some sort of a tube.


See line


n. powdered cocaine arranged into lines. (Drugs.) Max makes the rails too messy.
See also: rail
References in classic literature ?
He found himself in a little floor-clothed room, with a high desk railed off in one corner, behind which sat a lean youth with cunning eyes and a protruding chin, whose performances in capital-text darkened the window.
Guard railed at guard and blows were like to end it,
On the day when Richard Turlington paid his visit to Muswell Hill, two ladies (with a secret between them) unlocked the gate of the railed garden in Berkeley Square.
Moss's court-yard is railed in like a cage, lest the gentlemen who are boarding with him should take a fancy to escape from his hospitality.
A range of gabled little houses, each with one dim yellow window, on the ground floor, surrounded the dark open space of a grass plot planted with shrubs and railed off from the patchwork of lights and shadows in the wide road, resounding with the dull rumble of traffic.
It was as though she had become aware of her youth--for there was but little of spring- like glory in the rectangular railed space of grass and trees, framed visibly by the orderly roof-slopes of that town, comely without grace, and hospitable without sympathy.
He found himself jostled among a crowd of people, chiefly women, who were huddled together in a dirty frowsy room, at the upper end of which was a raised platform railed off from the rest, with a dock for the prisoners on the left hand against the wall, a box for the witnesses in the middle, and a desk for the magistrates on the right; the awful locality last named, being screened off by a partition which concealed the bench from the common gaze, and left the vulgar to imagine (if they could) the full majesty of justice.