behind the eight ball

This page is about the idiom behind the eight ball

American English INFORMAL


If you're behind the eight ball, you're in a difficult or dangerous position.

For example

  • The economic recession has really put our new business behind the eight ball. Nobody's spending money.

  • Carlo is behind the eight ball now because his final exam is in two days and he still hasn't started studying for it.

Origin: From a version of pool in which the balls are numbered and must be potted in order. A player loses if he hits the black eight ball in first, so if the cue ball is "behind the eight ball" he's in a dangerous position.


This idiom is typically used in American English but may be used in other varieties of English too.

Quick Quiz

The report is due tomorrow morning, and Nayomi is behind the eight ball because

a. her computer crashed and she can't print it

b. she's still waiting for a few pages to print

c. it's after 8 o'clock and she isn't asleep yet

Idiom of the Day

Contributor: Matt Errey