in a bind


Also, in a box or hole or jam or tight corner or tight spot. In a difficult, threatening, or embarrassing position; also, unable to solve a dilemma. For example, He's put us in a bind: we can't refuse, but at the same time we can't fill the order, or Jim's in a box; he can't afford to pay what he owes us, or He quit without giving notice and now we're really in a hole, or We always end up in a jam during the holiday season, or He's in a tight corner with those new customers, or We'll be in a tight spot unless we can find another thousand dollars. All these colloquial terms allude to places from which one can't easily extricate oneself. The phrase using bind was first recorded in 1851; box, 1865; jam, 1914; tight spot, 1852. Also see in a fix.

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