three sheets to the wind

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three sheets to the wind

Severely intoxicated from alcohol, to the point of finding control of one's actions or coordination difficult. Taken most likely from nautical terminology, where a "sheet" is the rope that controls the sails of a tall ship; if several sheets are loose or mishandled, the boat's movement becomes unsteady and difficult to control, like that of a drunk person. On his 21st birthday, Jeff's friends took him to every bar in town until he was three sheets to the wind.
See also: sheet, three, wind

three sheets in the wind

 and three sheets (to the wind); two sheets to the wind
Inf. intoxicated and unsteady. (Sheets are the ropes used to manage a ship's sails. It is assumed that if these ropes were blowing in the wind, the ship would be out of control.) He had gotten three sheets to the wind and didn't pay attention to my warning. By midnight, he was three sheets.
See also: sheet, three, wind

three sheets to the wind

Also, three sheets in the wind. Drunk, inebriated, as in After six beers he's three sheets to the wind. This expression is generally thought to refer to the sheet-that is, a rope or chain-that holds one or both lower corners of a sail. If the sheet is allowed to go slack in the wind, the sail flaps about and the boat is tossed about much as a drunk staggers. Having three sheets loose would presumably make the situation all the worse. Another explanation holds that with two or four sheets to the wind the boat is balanced, whereas with three it is not. [Mid-1800s]
See also: sheet, three, wind

three sheets to the wind

OLD-FASHIONED, INFORMAL
If someone is three sheets to the wind, they are drunk. He's probably three sheets to the wind down at Toby's, wondering where he left his truck. Note: On a boat, the ropes that control the position of the sails are called sheets. If the sheets are left hanging loose, the sails flap freely in the wind and cannot be controlled.
See also: sheet, three, wind

sheet

verb

three sheets in the wind

and three sheets (to the wind) and two sheets to the wind
mod. alcohol intoxicated and unsteady. (Sheets are the ropes used to manage a ship’s sails. It is assumed that if these ropes were blowing in the wind, the ship would be unmanageable.) He was three sheets to the wind and didn’t pay attention to my warning.
See also: sheet, three, wind

three sheets to the wind

verb
See also: sheet, three, wind

three sheets to the wind

Very drunk. Despite what it sounds like to nonsailors, a “sheet” isn't a sail. It's the rope that secures the sail's edge or corner to the mast or the vessel itself. A sheet that comes loose flaps erratically, much like a drunken sailor weaving his way back to the ship after a night's alcoholic revelry. Three sheets blowing in the wind would be even worse.
See also: sheet, three, wind