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[eyt-bawl] /ˈeɪtˌbɔl/
  1. a black ball bearing the number eight.
  2. a game in which one player or side must pocket all of either the solid-color balls or the striped ones before being permitted to attempt the pocketing of the eightball, which wins.
Slang. an inept person.
behind the eightball, Informal. in a difficult, disadvantageous, or uncomfortable situation:
He hasn't studied all term, and now he's behind the eightball.
Origin of eightball
An Americanism dating back to 1930-35; eight + ball1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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behind the eight ball in Culture

behind the eight ball definition

A term, referring to the game of pool, meaning in an unfavorable or uncomfortable position: “After his unkind remarks were repeated to the boss, Gary really ended up behind the eight ball.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for behind the eight ball

behind the eight ball

adverb phrase

In a losing or endangered position: He was sick and broke, right behind the eight ball

[1930s+; fr the position of a pool player behind the black eight ball, which he must not hit]



  1. A black person (1919+)
  2. A chronically unfortunate and ineffective person; loser, sad sack (1940s+)
  3. square (1950s+ Jive talk)

Related Terms

behind the eight ball

[because the pool ball numbered eight is black and is unlucky if it blocks one's cue ball]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with behind the eight ball

behind the eight ball

In trouble or an awkward position, out of luck, as in His check bounced, leaving Jim behind the eight ball with his landlord. The term comes from pocket billiards or pool, where in certain games if the number eight ball is between the “cue ball” and “object ball” the player cannot make a straight shot. [ ; c. 1920 ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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