barrel

[ bar-uh l ]
/ ˈbær əl /

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

/ (ˈbærəl) /

noun

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

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

Idioms and Phrases with over a barrel (1 of 2)

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.

Idioms and Phrases with over a barrel (2 of 2)

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.