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Someone who spends the greater part of their time in bars or other drinking establishments. Primarily heard in US, South Africa. You get to know the people in these places when you're a barfly like me.

bar off

1. To barricade, erect a barrier around, or deny access to something. Remember to bar off the front and back doors when you leave the building at night. The school threatened to bar off Internet access for students who use it to look at unrelated or inappropriate material.
2. In agriculture, to plow a furrow on either side of a row of plants so that their roots sit atop a high, narrow bed of soil. Make sure you bar off those rows of new seedlings first thing this morning.
See also: bar, off

bar sinister

1. obsolete In heraldry, a mark that runs from the left shoulder of the bearer down to the right, often used to denote a noble who is of illegitimate birth. "Sinister" comes from a Latin word meaning "on the left." The young duke, born out of wedlock to the king, wore a bar sinister upon his shield.
2. By extension, the status, stigma, or implication of illegitimate birth. The boy grew up in comfort, but his other brothers never let him forget his bar sinister.
See also: bar

bar star

Someone who has or seeks a popular reputation by frequenting bars or night clubs. Primarily heard in US, South Africa. Though he does not have a vibrant social life during the week, during the weekend he is something of a bar star.
See also: bar, star

bar up

To barricade, fit, or fortify with metal bars. Crime has gotten so bad in this area that we've had to bar up our windows. They finally barred up that old abandoned building last weekend.
See also: bar, up

call to the bar

1. noun Admission as a lawyer (American English), or specifically as a barrister or solicitor (British English). Ms. Fields earned her call to the bar only last year but has already represented many high-profile clients in court.
2. verb To receive admission as a lawyer (American English) or as a barrister or solicitor (British English). I studied law in Dublin, but I was called to the bar in London and have my practice set up there now.
See also: bar, call

not know (someone) from a bar of soap

To be completely unaware of or know nothing about someone; to have never met the person indicated. My girlfriend got really excited when a movie star apparently walked past us, but I wouldn't know him from a bar of soap. Someone I wouldn't know from a bar of soap just contacted me online, claiming to be a distant relative.
See also: bar, know, not, of, soap

lower the bar

To lower the standards of quality that are expected of or required for something. Soaring rents have really lowered the bar for where people are willing to live these days. During the economic boom, regulators lowered the bar for investment bankers' accountability.
See also: bar, lower

raise the bar

To raise the standards of quality that are expected of or required for something. Since higher education became available to a greater number of people, businesses have increasingly been raising the bar for entry-level employees.
See also: bar, raise

prop up the bar

To spend a large amount of time drinking at a pub or pubs in general. Primarily heard in UK. My father spent most of my childhood propping up the bar, so forgive me if I am not overly enthusiastic about social drinking. John's down at the local, propping up the bar with his mates from work.
See also: bar, prop, up

be put behind bars

To be arrested and held in prison; to be serving time in prison. I hear Mike's uncle has been put behind bars again. I wonder what he did this time! Sir, I'm afraid your son has been put behind bars on a charge of drunk driving.
See also: bar, behind, put

put (someone) behind bars

To arrest someone and hold him or her in prison; to sentence someone to serve time in prison. I heard that they put Mike's uncle behind bars for robbing a liquor store! The cops put our son behind bars on a charge of drunk driving, so we have to go down to the station to bail him out.
See also: bar, behind, put

set a high/low bar

To establish an expected, required, or desired (but ultimately constrictive) standard of quality. A: "At this point, I'm willing to go out with just about any guy, so long as he isn't living in his parents' basement." B: "Don't you think you're setting a bit of a low bar?" While you shouldn't take just any job you can get after college, be sure not to set too high a bar for an entry level job, or you may have trouble landing one at all.
See also: bar, high, low, set

set the bar (high/low)

To establish an expected, required, or desired standard of quality. (Often said of a standard that is constrictive in being either too low or too high). A: "At this point, I'm willing to go out with just about any guy, so long as he isn't living in his parents' basement." B: "Don't you think you're setting the bar a little low?" While you shouldn't take just any job you can get after college, be sure not to set the bar too high for an entry level job, or you may have trouble landing one at all. I hear that the new restaurant around the corner really sets the bar for exquisite seafood.
See also: bar, set

belly up to the bar

To walk up to something (not necessarily an actual bar). Come on, just belly up to the bar! Push through that crowd in the lobby so we can get to the check-in desk today!
See also: bar, belly, up

bar from

To prohibit someone from a certain place or thing. My rude comments got me barred from that website. My friends and I were barred from that restaurant after we got into fight there.
See also: bar

bar none

For sure; unequivocally. This is the best restaurant in town, bar none. Stephanie got the lead in the school play because she's the best actress in the school, bar none.
See also: bar, none

behind bars

In jail or prison. I hear Mike's uncle is behind bars again. I wonder what he did this time! Sir, I'm afraid your son has been put behind bars on a charge of drunk driving. Sure, they seem happy together, but who knows what happens behind closed doors.
See also: bar, behind

it's all over bar the shouting

The outcome of something is inevitable at this point. (Said especially of sporting events.) With that last goal, it's all over bar the shouting at this point.
See also: all, bar, shout

bar none

with no exceptions. (Follows an assertion.) This is the best of all, bar none.
See also: bar, none

bar someone from some place

to prevent someone from entering some place. Please don't bar me from the movie theater. I will be quiet from now on. They were barred from the concert for smoking.
See also: bar, place

*behind bars

in jail. (*Typically: be ~; put someone ~.) Very soon, you will be behind bars for your crimes. Max should be behind bars soon for his conviction on burglary charges.
See also: bar, behind

Katie bar the door

Prepare immediately for an advancing threat. Katie bar the door, the grandchildren are here and they all look hungry.
See also: bar, door, Katie

raise the bar

Fig. to make a task a little more difficult. (As with raising the bar in high jumping or pole vaulting.) Just as I was getting accustomed to my job, the manager raised the bar and I had to perform even better.
See also: bar, raise

all over but the shouting

The outcome is a certainty, as in When Jim hit the ball over the fence, it was all over but the shouting. The term's first use in print, in 1842, was by Welsh sportswriter Charles James Apperley, but some authorities believe it originated even earlier in the United States for a close political race. Today it is applied to any contest. A common British version is all over bar the shouting.
See also: all, but, shout

bar none

Also, barring none. Without exception, as in This is the best book I've read all year, bar none. [Mid-1800s]
See also: bar, none

behind bars

In prison, as in All murderers should be put behind bars for life. The bars here refer to the iron rods used to confine prisoners. [c. 1900]
See also: bar, behind

bar none

You use bar none to emphasize that someone or something is the best of their kind. He is simply the best goalscorer we have ever had, bar none. Coronation Street is the best programme on TV, bar none.
See also: bar, none


1. n. a person who frequents bars. Who will trust the word of an old barfly like Willy?
2. n. a drunkard. Some barfly staggered out of the tavern straight into the side of a car.

behind bars

mod. in jail; in prison. You belong behind bars, you creep!
See also: bar, behind

behind bars

In prison.
See also: bar, behind

bar sinister

A coat of arms ornamentation that is supposedly a sign of illegitimacy. The phrase, which has appeared in the works of novelists Laurence Sterne and Sir Walter Scott, implies a “bar” that prevents the person from a legitimate claim or inheritance, while “sinister” (the heraldic term for a coat of arms' left side) sounds menacing. Although the idea of a bar sinister on an illegitimate person's shield entered popular speech more than two centuries ago, that's not heraldically correct. A patterned border around a shield was the British heraldry way of indicating bastardy, and if you want to be even more technical, a thin diagonal line that does not touch the edges of the shield is a “baton,” not a “bar.” However, people rarely check with the College of Arms before using words and phrases.
See also: bar

Katie, bar the door!

"Watch out—there's trouble coming!” King James I, who was set upon in 1437 by unhappy Scots, took refuge in a room whose door had no bar lock. One Catherine Douglas tried to keep the door closed with her arm, but the mob broke through and murdered the king. That the king might have shouted, “Catherine, bar the door,” is not too very different from the once-popular phrase. That the expression was brought to America by Anglo-Scottish settlers is equally likely, and for genera- tions rural folk would acknowledge a difficult situation with a shake of the head and “Katy, bar the door.”
See also: bar
References in classic literature ?
Now observe the case of the several breeds of pigeons: they are descended from a pigeon (including two or three sub-species or geographical races) of a bluish colour, with certain bars and other marks; and when any breed assumes by simple variation a bluish tint, these bars and other marks invariably reappear; but without any other change of form or character.
These bars, as in the other windows, have remained intact, and the blinds, which naturally open inwards, have not been unfastened.
By the dead hands at my throat but he shall die, Bar Comas.
I stood with my back to a tree, swinging the iron bar before me.
He raised his eyes to the bench, thence to the jury-boxes, the bar, and the crowd without, meeting everywhere looks fastened on himself.
A fresh wind from the northwest sent a rough tumbling sea upon the coast, which broke upon the bar in furious surges, and extended a sheet of foam almost across the mouth of the river.
On such an afternoon some score of members of the High Court of Chancery bar ought to be--as here they are--mistily engaged in one of the ten thousand stages of an endless cause, tripping one another up on slippery precedents, groping knee-deep in technicalities, running their goat-hair and horsehair warded heads against walls of words and making a pretence of equity with serious faces, as players might.
Aramis glided into the third; the giant held in his hand an iron bar of about fifty pounds weight.
He would have appeared a large man had not a huge French-Canadian stepped up to him from the bar and gripped his hand.
He held on to the bar, his legs wobbling under him, Martin's arm around him and supporting him, while he thought.
Across from the bar a smaller counter held a collection of plates upon which swarmed frayed fragments of crackers, slices of boiled ham, dishevelled bits of cheese, and pickles swimming in vinegar.
From the county jail where he had been confined to await his trial he had escaped by knocking down his jailer with an iron bar, robbing him of his keys and, opening the outer door, walking out into the night.
He and I drank, which seemed just; but why should Johnny Heinhold, who owned the saloon and waited behind the bar, be invited to drink?
Far down, she saw its entrance between the bar of sand dunes on one side and a steep, high, grim, red sandstone cliff on the other.
Cape becomes bar, and plain shoal, and valley and gorge deep water and channel.