verb (used with object)
  1. to withdraw or draw off (a liquid) gradually; remove slowly or by degrees, as by filtration: to drain oil from a crankcase.
  2. to withdraw liquid gradually from; make empty or dry by drawing off liquid: to drain a crankcase.
  3. to exhaust the resources of: to drain the treasury.
  4. to deprive of strength; tire.
verb (used without object)
  1. to flow off gradually.
  2. to become empty or dry by the gradual flowing off of liquid or moisture: This land drains into the Mississippi.
  1. something, as a pipe or conduit, by which a liquid drains.
  2. Surgery. a material or appliance for maintaining the opening of a wound to permit free exit of fluids.
  3. gradual or continuous outflow, withdrawal, or expenditure.
  4. something that causes a large or continuous outflow, expenditure, or depletion: Medical expenses were a major drain on his bank account.
  5. an act of draining.
  6. Physical Geography.
    1. an artificial watercourse, as a ditch or trench.
    2. a natural watercourse modified to increase its flow of water.
  1. go down the drain,
    1. to become worthless or profitless.
    2. to go out of existence; disappear.

Origin of drain

before 1000; Middle English dreynen, Old English drēhnian, drēahnian to strain, filter; akin to dry
Related formsdrain·a·ble, adjectivedrain·er, nouno·ver·drain, verbun·drain·a·ble, adjectiveun·drained, adjectivewell-drained, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for go down the drain


  1. a pipe or channel that carries off water, sewage, etc
  2. an instance or cause of continuous diminution in resources or energy; depletion
  3. surgery a device, such as a tube, for insertion into a wound, incision, or bodily cavity to drain off pus, etc
  4. electronics the electrode region in a field-effect transistor into which majority carriers flow from the interelectrode conductivity channel
  5. down the drain wasted
  1. (tr often foll by off) to draw off or remove (liquid) fromto drain water from vegetables; to drain vegetables
  2. (intr often foll by away) to flow (away) or filter (off)
  3. (intr) to dry or be emptied as a result of liquid running off or flowing awayleave the dishes to drain
  4. (tr) to drink the entire contents of (a glass, cup, etc)
  5. (tr) to consume or make constant demands on (resources, energy, etc); exhaust; sap
  6. (intr) to disappear or leave, esp graduallythe colour drained from his face
  7. (tr) (of a river, etc) to carry off the surface water from (an area)
  8. (intr) (of an area) to discharge its surface water into rivers, streams, etc
Derived Formsdrainable, adjective

Word Origin for drain

Old English drēahnian; related to Old Norse drangr dry wood; see dry
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for go down the drain



Old English dreahnian "to drain, strain out," from Proto-Germanic *dreug-, source of drought, dry, giving the English word originally a sense of "make dry." Figurative meaning of "exhaust" is attested from 1650s. The word is not found in surviving texts between late Old English and the 1500s. Related: Drained; draining.



1550s, from drain (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

go down the drain in Medicine


  1. A device, such as a tube, inserted into the opening of a wound or into a body or dental cavity to facilitate discharge of fluid or purulent material.
  1. To draw off a liquid gradually as it forms.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with go down the drain

go down the drain

see down the drain.


see brain drain; down the drain.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.