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1. To muddle, confuse, or ruin something. A noun can be used between "ball" and "up." Boy, I really balled up the directions—where are we? Here are the items I need from the grocery store—don't ball it up!
2. To roll or form into a ball. I balled up my clothes and threw them in the hamper.
3. To cause someone to become confused or flummoxed. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "ball" and "up." Missing the last page of the directions really balled me up—that's why I'm late.
1. adjective Horribly awry to the point of complete ruin or disaster. Mary's Monday morning routine went balls up when she spilled coffee on herself, missed the train, and arrived to work late.
2. noun (usually hyphenated) A blunder that causes disastrous results; a mess-up. The balls-up with the code has put the entire software platform in jeopardy.
ball someone or something up
to interfere with someone or something; to mess someone or something up. Who balled this television up? Someone balled up the television.
ball something up
to roll something up into a ball. (Alluding to something, such as rope, being tangled up and so useless.) She balled the clay up and stuck it to the clown's face as a nose. Why are you balling up the paper?
*(all) balled up
troubled; confused; in a mess. (*Typically: be ~; get ~.) John is all balled up because his car was stolen.
1. Roll something into a ball, as in She loved to knit and was always balling up her yarn. [Early 1800s]
2. Confuse or bungle, as in Jane got all balled up at the beginning of her speech, or Henry really balled up that exam. This term may come from the fact that when a horse is driven over soft or partly thawed snow, the snow becomes packed into icy balls on its hoofs, making it stumble. Another theory is that it alludes to the vulgar term balls for testicles. [First half of 1900s]
1. To roll something into a ball: I balled up the lump of clay. I balled the rest of the yarn up when I finished knitting.
2. To make a mess of something: I think you balled your assignment up. I'm afraid someone will ball up the arrangement.
ball someone/something up
tv. to mess someone or something up; to put someone or something into a state of confusion. When you interrupted, you balled me up and I lost my place.
in. to mess up; to make a mess of things. Take your time at this. Go slow and you won’t ball up.
mod. confused; mixed up. (This is hyphenated before a nominal.) That dame is so balled up she doesn’t know anything.