three sheets to the wind

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three sheets to the wind

slang Extremely drunk, especially to the point of being uncoordinated or out of control. Most likely derived from nautical terminology, in which a "sheet" is the rope that controls the sails of a tall ship; if several sheets are loose or mishandled, the boat's movement becomes unsteady and difficult to control, like that of a drunk person. On his 21st birthday, Jeff's friends took him to every bar in town until he was three sheets to the wind. They had an open bar at the staff party, so we were all three sheets to the wind by the time we left.
See also: sheet, three, to, wind
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

three sheets to the wind

Also, three sheets in the wind. Drunk, inebriated, as in After six beers he's three sheets to the wind. This expression is generally thought to refer to the sheet-that is, a rope or chain-that holds one or both lower corners of a sail. If the sheet is allowed to go slack in the wind, the sail flaps about and the boat is tossed about much as a drunk staggers. Having three sheets loose would presumably make the situation all the worse. Another explanation holds that with two or four sheets to the wind the boat is balanced, whereas with three it is not. [Mid-1800s]
See also: sheet, three, to, wind
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

three sheets to the wind

OLD-FASHIONED, INFORMAL
If someone is three sheets to the wind, they are drunk. He's probably three sheets to the wind down at Toby's, wondering where he left his truck. Note: On a boat, the ropes that control the position of the sails are called sheets. If the sheets are left hanging loose, the sails flap freely in the wind and cannot be controlled.
See also: sheet, three, to, wind
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

(be) three sheets to the ˈwind

(old-fashioned) (be) drunk: By 11 o’clock he was three sheets to the wind and we had to take him home in a cab. OPPOSITE: stone-cold soberThis idiom comes from sailing: if three sheets (= the ropes attached to the sails) are loose, the wind blows the sails about and the boat moves in a very unsteady way.
See also: sheet, three, to, wind
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

three sheets

verb
See also: sheet, three

three sheets to the wind

verb
See also: sheet, three, to, wind
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

three sheets

to/in the wind Informal
Intoxicated; drunk.
See also: sheet, three
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

three sheets in/to the wind

Drunk. The term comes from sailing ships and refers to the sheet, or rope, that controls the sail. If a sheet is allowed to flap freely in the wind, the sail also flaps about and the vessel proceeds on a tottering course, like that of an intoxicated person. The more sheets are loose, the shakier the course. Dickens used the expression figuratively in Dombey and Son (1848): “Captain Cuttle, looking . . . at Bunsby more attentively, perceived that he was three sheets in the wind, or in plain words, drunk.” The expression may be obsolescent today, at least in America.
See also: sheet, three, to, wind
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer

three sheets to the wind

Very drunk. Despite what it sounds like to nonsailors, a “sheet” isn't a sail. It's the rope that secures the sail's edge or corner to the mast or the vessel itself. A sheet that comes loose flaps erratically, much like a drunken sailor weaving his way back to the ship after a night's alcoholic revelry. Three sheets blowing in the wind would be even worse.
See also: sheet, three, to, wind
Endangered Phrases by Steven D. Price Copyright © 2011 by Steven D. Price
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