come a cropper


come a cropper


  • to not succeed at something
  • to fall over
  • to fail at a venture
  • something that has come to its ruin
  • to fail miserably

Example Sentences

  1. The minister came a cropper as soon as she was elected. Hence she was transferred from her ministry and given something else to do in the cabinet.
  2. She seemed to come a cropper shortly after her promotion as cabinet minister.
  3. The water was all drained into the sea, and the government’s rainwater harvesting efforts have come a cropper.
  4. The games are so competitive now that you will come a cropper if you are not utterly focused.
  5. Earlier, my dad’s plan to own a farmhouse had come a cropper because of financial and land issues.


The phrase has British origin, which is said to have been amongst the imaginations of the Victorian inventors who brought the term about from Henry Smith Cropper, the Sheriff of Nottingham. The expression is speculated to have begun from the accidents in the printing press that H.S. Cropper owned, which left the workers’ hands in a state of ruin.

There is another speculated origin theory also. The Old Norse word for the crop was Kropp which meant something that was swollen. The gullet of a bird or seed has come from this origin too. The back portion of the horse or the nether region came to be known as the crop. A neck to crop fall, which could lead to severe disabilities or even death, was eventually known as come a cropper.

In the 18th century, anyone who fell from a horse was said to have fallen neck and crop. Neck and crop and head over heels originate from the 16th-century term neck and heels, which had the same meaning. “Come a cropper” is just a simple way of describing a neck and crop fall. The phrase is first cited in Robert S. Surtees’ Ask Mamma, 1858:

“rode at an impracticable fence and got a cropper for his pains.”

John C. Hotten first recorded the phrase (in its exact form and current meaning) in his dictionary of modern slang published in 1859.

“Cropper, ‘to go a cropper’, or ‘to come a cropper’, that is, to fail badly.”

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