Attested since the 1920s as a noun, most likely from the nautical cry “by the deep six” indicating a depth of 6 fathoms (36 feet, 10.97 metres) as measured by a sounding line (a depth at which something thrown overboard would be difficult to recover), though possibly also a reference to the common depth of graves (six feet). Attested since the 1950s as a verb.
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- (idiomatic) To discard, get rid of, or cancel; to completely put an end to something.
- They had put many hundreds of hours into the project before it was deep-sixed by management.
the deep six
- Ejection, discardment or destruction.
- 1950, Boys' Life, page 21:
- Otherwise when Don got in trouble he might have really got the deep six. He had a pretty level head, though, and I guess that's what saved him.
- 2011, Nine Hundred Nights, Lulu.com, →ISBN, page 132:
- I look at Kenny who looks at Jimmy...the three of us join Colm; we overpower Ingy and give him the deep six.
- 2014, Douglas Clegg, The Children's Hour: A Supernatural Thriller, Alkemara Press, →ISBN:
- Aaron was sitting up in the backseat poking his fingers at his Game Boy, behaving fairly decently since he'd been warned that if he went into any kind of tantrum or mood, the Game Boy got the deep six.
- 2017, Jay Franklin, Richard Wormser, John G. Schneider, The Comic Novel MEGAPACK, Wildside Press LLC, →ISBN, page 153:
- The chief named Ape—pretty good name, too—said, “This guy's bothering you, Pan, Happy'll give him the deep six.” “Oh, no,” the monkey said.
- The grave or death; also, the (notional) place where something is discarded.
- 2004, Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, New Directions Publishing, →ISBN:
- The discretion of social conversation, even among friends, is exceeded only by the discretion of “the deep six,” that grave wherein nothing is mentioned at all.
- 2007, Michael Tougias, When Man is the Prey: True Stories of Animals Attacking Humans, Macmillan, →ISBN, page 150:
- Between the Brits and the Maharajas, there's pretty good reason to believe that at least 100,000 tigers got the deep six over the past hundred years.
- 2008, Michael Dobson, Roy Alexander, Real-World Time Management, AMACOM, →ISBN, page 26:
- Your second appointment is 15 minutes late, so you chip away at your delay reading. You scan contents and tear out articles you want to keep. Wham! The rest goes into the deep six.
- 2011, Ralph Ellison, Juneteenth: A Novel, Vintage, →ISBN, page 103:
- Down in the deep six with eyes frozen till Judgment Day. There they lie, encased in ice beneath the seas like statues of stone awaiting the Day of Judgment to blast them free.
- “deep six”, in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 1996–present.
- Douglas Harper (2001–2023), “deep six”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
- ^ Marks on a sounding line were traditionally placed at 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 13, 15, 17, and 20 fathoms. The “leadsman” called out the depth as he read it off the line. If the depth was at a mark he would call “by the mark” followed by the number; if the depth was between two marks, he would call “by the deep” followed by the estimated number. Six fathoms would therefore be reported as “by the deep six”.
- ^ “deep six”, in Dictionary.com Unabridged, Dictionary.com, LLC, 1995–present.