out of one’s depth

out of one’s depth


  • a situation beyond one’s knowledge or ability
  • to not have the knowledge, or understanding to handle a specific situation
  • a complicated situation to cope with
  • to get stuck in the circumstances that one was not well prepared for

The literal meaning of out of one’s depth:
In water too deep that goes over one’s head and cannot stand or may be at risk of drowning. (See example 7)

Example Sentences

  1. After watching this film, the audience realized that making comedy movies was out of the depth of this director.
  2. She was out of her depth in the advanced class.
  3. William was not very well in his studies and always felt out of his depth in school.
  4. I asked Steve to help on this project because it’s a bit out of my depth.
  5. I never knew that I would feel so out of my depth after moving to a new city.
  6. The team soon realized they were out of their depth on the first day of the project.
  7. I can’t swim, so I am not going out of my depth.


The expression was available in prints since the mid-1600s and initially appeared in its literal sense.

The earliest printed record can be found in Comedies and Tragedies by Thomas Killigrew (1664):

“He was never out of his depth before; you shall see him plunge and struggle like a young swimmer to get of the puddle.”


  • out of one’s league
  • over one’s head

O 1 Thought

1 Thought

No. The meaning you have up there pertains to the idiom, “Out of one’s depth,” which means out of one’s league. i.e. I am out my depth in math. It is beyond my understanding.

There is a second idiom, “Out of the depths,” which means something rises out of something. For instance: Out of the depths of the Yangtze River in Central China, rises the Three Gorges Dam, over sixty stories high.

- carol hall November 14, 2013

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Idiom of the Day

put your foot in it

Meaning: say something (by mistake) that upsets, humiliates, or embarrasses someone

Example: Carla put her foot right in it when she congratulated her neighbour on being pregnant. It turns out she's not expecting but had just put on weight. Read on


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