over a barrel

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over a barrel

In a position of vulnerability, weakness, or powerlessness. He's had me over a barrel ever since he found out about my affair. Once the party got majorities in both houses, they've had the opposition over a barrel.
See also: barrel, over
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

*over a barrel

Fig. out of one's control; in a dilemma. (*Typically: get someone ~; have someone ~; put someone ~.) He got me over a barrel, and I had to do what he said. Ann will do exactly what I say. I've got her over a barrel.
See also: barrel, over
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

over a barrel

In a weak or difficult position, as in Once the competitors found a flaw in our product, they had us over a barrel. This slangy expression, first recorded in 1938, supposedly alludes to reviving a drowning victim by placing the body head down over a barrel and rolling it back and forth, so as to empty the lungs of water. The expression survives, although happily the practice does not.
See also: barrel, over
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.

(get/have somebody) over a ˈbarrel

(informal) (put/have somebody) in a position where they are forced to do what you want: She has us over a barrel — if we don’t pay her, we’ll lose everything. This may refer to a person who has been saved from drowning and is held over a barrel (= a large round container) in order to empty their lungs of water.
See also: barrel, over
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

over a barrel

In a very awkward position from which extrication is difficult: During the negotiations the opposing faction had us over a barrel.
See also: barrel, over
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

over a barrel

In a weak position; helpless, in someone’s power. This term allegedly was derived from the practice of reviving drowning victims by positioning them headfirst over a barrel and rolling it back and forth, thereby attempting to empty the lungs of water. Happily this practice has been replaced by better methods of resuscitation, but the helpless position of the victim has survived in the current cliché. Raymond Chandler gave it a double meaning in The Big Sleep (1939): “We keep a file on unidentified bullets nowadays. Some day you might use that gun again. Then you’d be over a barrel.”
See also: barrel, over
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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