down and out


down and out


  • a homeless or impoverished person.
  • someone who has no place to live, no work, and no money.
  • bums and boozers, impoverished and unfortunate.
  • an impoverished individual in need of help.
  • lacking in money, resources, or prospects.

Example Sentences

  1. After losing his work, he found himself down and out.
  2. I just thought he was down and out and begging on the street corner.
  3. Jenny was one of several down-and-outers who awaited the American Kitchen’s opening.
  4. When he was down and out, he went to the Salvation Army for help.


Lacking funds or prospects; destitute, penniless. For example, after losing his job, car, and home, he was completely down and out. This term probably originated in boxing, where it alludes to the fighter who is knocked down and stays down for a given time, thereby losing the bout.

A boxer who is “down” has been knocked to the canvas, and one who is also “out” is unconscious or unable to resume the fight; thus, a down-and-out boxer is utterly defeated. AHDI states the term “probably” came from boxing, circa 1900; the OED refers to boxing rather obliquely and cites the first figurative usage in 1889.

Share your opinions1 Opinion

Could it be a combination of two other phrases meaning a person is destitute? Those phrases being: “Down at the heels” and “Out at the elbows”.

‒ Ken McPherson January 15, 2024

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