on the blink


on the blink,
also, on the fritz


  • to be malfunctioning or not operating correctly.
  • typically, applied to a machine with complex parts.  
  • when applied to a person, it implies they are in a state of agitation or confusion.

Example Sentences

  1. The computer is on the blink again; I really need to check whether there’s a virus causing problems.
  2. My car was on the blink, so I wasn’t able to get to work on time.
  3. If your dishwasher is on the blink, you will need to contact a service technician.


The phrase was first used by George V. Hobart, a Canadian-American author who wrote a series of books under the pseudonym, Hugh McHugh. In “John Henry on Would-Be Actors,” from his book, John Henry (G.W. Dillingham, 1901, p. 86), Hobart used the phrase to mean that one of his characters would become agitated:

“…he’ll […] put Looey Harrison on the blink…”

While this is the first known use of the idiom in its complete form that is utilized to this day, the more general use of the word “blink” as a verb, which means ‘confuse,’ can be found much earlier. For example, “A History of the War of 1812,” published in The Anglo-American Magazine, Volume 3 (1853, p. 116) states:

“The truth is, and American writers may blink it or explain it as they please, that the refusal to cross the border, on the plea of its being unconstitutional, was one of the factious dogmas of the war…”

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