be behind the eight ball

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be behind the eight ball

To be in a challenging situation; to be at a disadvantage. An "eight ball" is one of the numbered balls used in the game of pool, and the last one supposed to be hit into a pocket. If the eight ball is accidentally hit into a pocket prematurely, the player will lose, and it therefore needs to be avoided. If we don't leave early tomorrow, we'll be behind the eight ball, and I doubt we'll reach the cabin by dusk. Because I got the flu, I'm behind the eight ball with my Christmas shopping.
See also: ball, behind, eight

be behind the eight ball

  (American & Australian informal)
to be in a difficult situation and unable to make progress
Usage notes: In a game of pool (= a game in which you hit numbered balls into holes around a table), if you are behind the black, number eight ball you are in a difficult position to take your next turn.
The police are very much behind the eight ball - they've had no more leads on these burglaries.
See also: ball, behind, eight