a lame duck
1. Someone or something that needs help. The company started as a lame duck that was saved by an innovative entrepreneur who decided to take some risks and go in a new direction.
2. An elected official serving their last term in office, usually so-called after a successor has been elected. The opposing party was angry at the president's intention to name a Supreme Court replacement while he was a lame duck.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
a lame duck
1. If a politician or a government is a lame duck, they have little real power, for example because their period of office is coming to an end. The government is headed by a president who looks like a lame duck. The last thing people needed was to feel that the government was a lame duck. Note: You can also use lame-duck before a noun. He's already seen widely as a lame-duck Prime Minister. He would have found himself leading a lame-duck administration to near-certain defeat.
2. If someone or something is a lame duck, they are in a very weak position and in need of support. The company has completed its transformation from the lame duck of the motor industry into a quality car maker. Moira considers all single people lame ducks. Note: You can also use lame-duck before a noun. It is not right to use taxpayers' money to support lame-duck industries. Note: This expression is usually used to criticize someone or something. Note: The image here is of a duck that has been shot and wounded, and so cannot move properly and is likely to die.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
a ˌlame ˈduck(informal) a person or an organization that is not very successful and needs help: My uncle is a bit of a lame duck. The family has to help him all the time. ♢ The shipping industry had become a lame duck.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
lame duck, a
A person finishing a term of office, employment, or other engagement, and soon to be supplanted by another. This term had quite another meaning in eighteenth-century Britain. Then it denoted a stock-exchange jobber (broker) who could not pay his debts and therefore was struck from the members’ list, forced to “waddle away” from the Exchange. In the nineteenth century, however, the term began to be used for any ineffectual person, on both sides of the Atlantic. Some decades thereafter it began to be used in its present meaning in the United States, that is, for government officials who have failed to be reelected but must serve out their term of office, even though their endeavors are hampered because they are about to be replaced.
See also: lame
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer