back to the wall


back to the wall,
or, back against the wall


  • to be in a difficult situation
  • to have the odds against one’s self
  • to have no way of being able to get away
  • to have no space to escape
  • to be caught by someone without having an easy escape route
  • to be trapped in a situation

Example Sentences

  1. They have him with his back to the wall and now he has no more options but to pay back the debtors or go to jail for fraud.
  2. I had my back against the wall when I was forced to take such a difficult decision.
  3. When armed forces entered the building the militants had their backs to the wall.
  4. Giyan was angry because Nobita teased him, and then Nobita had his back to the wall when Gian found him alone in absence of the Doremon.


The phrase originates from the American military heritage. Since the 1500’s having organized military units is a common phenomenon. To have the “back against the walls” meant that the unit was stranded or caught in a difficult situation where coming back alive was only a dim possibility. They would, in summary, be making their last stand with a choice of fight or flight. But the latter would mean a life of desolation from the society and loved ones so the soldiers chose to fight instead. This also reflected honour and the legacy of the phrase still continues which gives honour to the ones choosing to fight back.

Share your opinions1 Opinion

I had my back against the wall when I had to bribe a student to get exam answers for a bully who blackmailed me.

‒ Aiswarya September 18, 2023

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