sell (one) down the river

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sell (one) down the river

To betray one for a personal benefit. An allusion to the practice of selling slaves to plantations farther south via the Mississippi River. These companies all want to pretend like they're your friend, but they'll sell you down the river the moment it makes financial sense for them. Part of the discontentment among voters comes from the sentiment that those in government sold them down the river when the economy collapsed.
See also: down, river, sell
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

sell down the river

Betray, as in They kept the merger a secret until the last minute, so the employees who were laid off felt they'd been sold down the river . This expression, dating from the mid-1800s, alludes to slaves being sold down the Mississippi River to work as laborers on cotton plantations. Its figurative use dates from the late 1800s.
See also: down, river, sell
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.

sell someone down the river

If someone sells you down the river, they betray you or do something which harms you in order to gain an advantage for themselves. He has been sold down the river by the people who were supposed to protect him. He said he could not agree to measures which would sell British farmers down the river. Note: This is a reference to slave-owners on the Mississippi river selling unwanted slaves to other slave-owners further down the river, where the conditions were harsher.
See also: down, river, sell, someone
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

sell someone down the river

betray someone, especially so as to benefit yourself. informal
This expression originated in the USA, with reference to the practice in the slave-owning states of selling troublesome slaves to owners of sugar-cane plantations on the lower Mississippi, where conditions were harsher than those in the more northerly states.
1998 Bookseller Once you have lost it with the first three the last lot will sell you down the river so fast it isn't true.
See also: down, river, sell, someone
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

sell somebody down the ˈriver

(informal) act very unfairly to somebody who trusts you; betray somebody you have promised to help: The workers thought that their own leaders had sold them down the river.This idiom comes from the days of slavery in the US. A slave who was sold to an owner further down the Mississippi river would experience worse conditions than in the states further north.
See also: down, river, sell, somebody
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

sell down the river

Informal
To betray the trust or faith of.
See also: down, river, sell
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.

sell down the river, to

To betray. This term arose in the mid-nineteenth-century United States and referred to selling slaves down the Mississippi River, where they would almost certainly be worked to death in the cotton fields. The term was used in its literal sense by Harriet Beecher Stowe in her best-selling novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but by the late nineteenth century it was being used figuratively. P. G. Wodehouse used it in Small Bachelor (1927): “When Sigisbee Waddington married for the second time, he to all intents and purposes sold himself down the river.”
See also: down, sell, to
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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