dead man walking

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A phrase traditionally used in U.S. prisons to announce a condemned prisoner being walked to the place of execution.[1] Its use has expanded as a euphemism for anyone facing an impending and unavoidable loss.


dead man walking (plural dead men walking)

  1. A condemned prisoner walking to a death chamber or other place of execution.
    • 1996, Stephen King, The Green Mile:
      It was Percy Wetmore who ushered Coffey onto the block, with the supposedly traditional cry of “Dead man walking! Dead man walking here!”
  2. Someone who is soon to die.
    • 2010, Peter Corris, Torn Apart, Allen and Unwin, page 231:
      "So, arrest me," Cummings said. "The fuck do I care? I'm a dead man walking."
  3. (figurative) Someone who is about to face an unavoidable loss (though the person may not realize it).

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