at sea, to be/all
all at sea
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 all at sea since we started.
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.
be at sea
1. To literally sail on the sea in a boat or ship. A: "Is your mother at sea yet?" B: "Yes, her cruise lasts several weeks."
2. To be 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.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
(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.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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]
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.
all at seaBRITISH or
COMMON If someone is all at sea or is at sea, they are very confused by a situation and do not understand it. While he may be all at sea on the economy, his changes have brought the West real and lasting political benefits. This was a massive success for a party that, two years previously, was all at sea. Note: The reference here is to a ship or a boat that has got lost.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
(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.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
1. On the sea, especially on a sea voyage.
2. In a state of confusion or perplexity; at a loss.
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.
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
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer