on (one's) beam-ends(redirected from on their beam ends)
on (one's) beam-ends
In a precarious and/or desperate situation. The phrase was originally used to describe the tilted position of a ship before it capsizes. My sister's on her beam-ends now that she's lost her job—I might have to lend her some money so she doesn't lose her house. Tell me the truth, doc—am I on my beam-ends, or do I still have treatment options available?
See also: on
on your beam endsnear the end of your resources; desperate.
The beam referred to here is one of the main horizontal transverse timbers of a wooden ship; compare with broad in the beam (at broad). The phrase originated as the nautical term on her beam ends , and was used of a ship that had heeled over on its side and was almost capsizing.