behind the eight-ball

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Thought to derive from the game of kelly pool, in which players assigned balls numerically higher than 8 — that is, balls that are behind the 8 ball in order — have little possibility of winning, or from eight-ball pool, where one cannot contact the eight ball on a shot before it is the legal ball, frustrating shots, or more generally, from the fact that the 8 ball is considered harder to aim out because of its color.


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Prepositional phrase[edit]

behind the eight-ball

  1. (idiomatic) In a difficult situation or tight spot; at a disadvantage.
    After his last two projects failed, he was really behind the eight-ball.
    He was desperate, playing behind the eight-ball.

Usage notes[edit]

  • When modifying a noun, used in predicate position.