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on the rocks

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1

Ruined, spoiled, as in Six months after the wedding, their marriage was on the rocks. This expression, alluding to a ship running aground on rocks and breaking apart, has been used figuratively for other disasters since the late 1800s.

2

Served over ice only, as in He always drinks whiskey on the rocks. The “rocks” here are the ice cubes. [Mid-1900s]

3

Destitute, bankrupt, as in Can I borrow next month's rent? I'm on the rocks. This usage, from the late 1800s, is heard more often in Britain than America.

QUIZZES

QUIZ YOURSELF ON "WAS" VS. "WERE"!

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Question 1 of 7
“Was” is used for the indicative past tense of “to be,” and “were” is only used for the subjunctive past tense.

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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.

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