barrel

[bar-uh l]

noun

verb (used with object), bar·reled, bar·rel·ing or (especially British) bar·relled, bar·rel·ling.

verb (used without object), bar·reled, bar·rel·ing or (especially British) bar·relled, bar·rel·ling.

Informal. to travel or drive very fast: to barrel along the highway.

Idioms

    over a barrel, Informal. in a helpless, weak, or awkward position; unable to act: They really had us over a barrel when they foreclosed the mortgage.

Origin of barrel

1250–1300; Middle English barell < Anglo-French baril, Old French barril < Vulgar Latin *barrīculum, equivalent to *barrīc(a), perhaps derivative of Late Latin barra bar1 + Latin -ulum -ule; compare Medieval Latin (circa 800) barriclus small cask
Related formshalf-bar·rel, nounun·bar·reled, adjectiveun·bar·relled, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for over a barrel

barrel

noun

a cylindrical container usually bulging outwards in the middle and held together by metal hoops; cask
Also called: barrelful the amount that a barrel can hold
a unit of capacity used in brewing, equal to 36 Imperial gallons
a unit of capacity used in the oil and other industries, normally equal to 42 US gallons or 35 Imperial gallons
a thing or part shaped like a barrel, esp a tubular part of a machine
the tube through which the projectile of a firearm is discharged
horology the cylindrical drum in a watch or clock that is rotated by the mainspring
the trunk of a four-legged animalthe barrel of a horse
the quill of a feather
informal a large measure; a great deal (esp in the phrases barrel of fun, barrel of laughs)
Australian informal the hollow inner side of a wave
over a barrel informal powerless
scrape the barrel informal to be forced to use one's last and weakest resource

verb -rels, -relling or -relled or US -rels, -reling or -reled

(tr) to put into a barrel or barrels
(intr ; foll by along, in, etc) informal (intr) to travel or move very fast
Australian informal to ride on the inside of a wave

Word Origin for barrel

C14: from Old French baril perhaps from barre bar 1
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 over a barrel

barrel

v.

mid-15c., "to put in barrels," from barrel (n.). Meaning "to move quickly" is 1930, American English slang, perhaps suggestive of a rolling barrel. Related: Barreled; barreling.

barrel

n.

c.1300, from Old French baril (12c.) "barrel, cask, vat," with cognates in all Romance languages (e.g. Italian barile, Spanish barril), but origin uncertain; perhaps from Gaulish, perhaps somehow related to bar (n.1). Meaning "metal tube of a gun" is from 1640s. Barrel roll in aeronautics is from 1927.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with over a barrel

over a barrel

In a weak or difficult position, as in Once the competitors found a flaw in our product, they had us over a barrel. This slangy expression, first recorded in 1938, supposedly alludes to reviving a drowning victim by placing the body head down over a barrel and rolling it back and forth, so as to empty the lungs of water. The expression survives, although happily the practice does not.

barrel

see both barrels; bottom of the barrel; cash on the barrelhead; like shooting fish in a barrel; lock, stock, and barrel; more fun than a barrel of monkeys; over a barrel; pork barrel; rotten apple (spoils the barrel).

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