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Related to at sea: All at Sea
1. Literally, sailing on the sea in a boat or ship. A: "Is your mother at sea yet?" B: "Yes, her cruise lasts several weeks."
2. Puzzled, perplexed, or completely confused (about a subject or some task at hand). I tried to do well in this class, but I've been at sea since we started.
(all) at sea (about something)
Fig. to be confused; to be lost and bewildered. (Alludes to being lost at sea.) When it comes to higher math, John is totally at sea.
1. Lit. on the sea; away on a voyage on the ocean. The ship is at sea now, and you can't disembark. I spent many happy days at sea on my cruise.
2. Fig. confused; at a loss. Bill was at sea over the calculus problem. Reading economic theory leaves me feeling at sea.
1. Aboard a ship, on the ocean, as in Within a few hours the ship would be out at sea. During World War II a famous American newscaster addressed his radio broadcasts to listeners everywhere, including "all the ships at sea." [1300s]
2. Also, all at sea. Perplexed, bewildered, as in She was all at sea in these new surroundings. This idiom transfers the condition of a vessel that has lost its bearings to the human mind. Charles Dickens used it in Little Dorrit (1855): "Mrs. Tickit ... was so plainly at sea on this part of the case." [Second half of 1700s]
(all) at seaconfused or unable to decide what to do.
1993 Sheila Stewart Ramlin Rose She had a lot of bodily sufferin. Mr Statham and the Girls couldn't stand it; they was all at sea.
1. On the sea, especially on a sea voyage.
2. In a state of confusion or perplexity; at a loss.
at sea, to be/all
To be bewildered, to have lost one’s way. Presumably it reflects the idea of literally having lost one’s bearings while at sea. It was so used by Dickens and other nineteenth-century writers.
See also: all