go belly up
1. To break or malfunction; to die, fall apart, or cease to work. ("Belly up" is sometimes hyphenated.) Sorry, Mark, I'd love to give you a lift to the airport, but my car has gone belly up on me again. The disk drive in my laptop went belly-up after the one too many drops on the ground.
2. By extension, to have a poor, undesired, or ruinous outcome; to fail completely or not come together at all. It looks like our co-op might be going belly-up if we aren't granted a license for our communal work premises. The merger deal between the two companies went belly-up when it came to light that one of the CEOs had been dodging tax obligations for several years.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
Fail, go bankrupt, as in This company's about to go belly-up. This expression alludes to the posture of a dead fish in the water. [Slang; early 1900s] Also see go broke.
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.
COMMON If a company goes belly-up, it fails and does not have enough money to pay its debts. Factories and farms went belly-up because of the debt crisis. Note: This expression may refer to dead fish floating upside down near the surface of the water.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
Die; also, go bankrupt or otherwise fail. This slangy Americanism, which dates from the second half of the 1800s, initially referred to dead fish, which float in precisely that fashion. The transfer to humans as well as to inanimate objects, such as a business, took place in the early 1900s. It continues to be used in both senses, as in, “If those instruments fail, the astronauts will go belly-up” (that is, die), or as John Dos Passos put it in Chronicle (1920), “Labor’s belly up completely—The only hope is the I.W.W. [union].”
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer