on the line


on the line


  • to be at serious risk.
  • denoting the fact that something is being risked.
  • line up in formation (military, sports, etc.).
  • a gambling term that can be applied to a variety of games of chance.

Examples in Sentences

  1. Put your toes on the line and form up!
  2. I’m going to risk it and put it all on the line.
  3. By making this investment, he’s putting everything on the line.
  4. Open-pen fish farms are on the line along the west coasts of both Canada and the United States.
  5. Michigan’s future is on the line as a result of the rising violence.


The etymology of “on the line” is a bit confusing since it is said to have originated as early as the end of the 17th century and as late as the 1940s. As it can be seen with many confusing proverbs, this stands out as one of the many that can have multiple meanings that are not related. Such vague phrases manage to confuse a lot of people since they require a greater explanation so that those listening or reading can understand. The birthplace of this idiom is said to have started anywhere from aboard British naval vessels to gambling dens. It can literally mean to stand ‘on the line’ in formation, or it can be used as a betting term. It can even be used to describe urgency in a given situation.

Share your opinions2 Opinions

O don’t see any rational argument that would be more convincing or intuitive than this being a gambling term. Blackjack or Craps, for instance, where you put the money you are gambling literally in the line drawn on the table to show that it is in play.

‒ Mike April 3, 2024

I would say it comes from arguably the second-oldest profession, masonry; everything built by masons is on the line, or actually “to” the line. It makes sense to me; I can’t believe that this hasn’t been brought up before.

‒ Dale April 15, 2023

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