four sheets to the wind

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Derived from sailing ships. The 'sheet' in the phrase uses the nautical meaning of a rope that controls the trim of sail. If a sheet is loose, the sail flaps and doesn't provide control for the ship. Having several sheets loose ("to the wind") could cause the ship to rock about drunkenly.


four sheets to the wind ‎(not comparable)

  1. (idiomatic) Extremely drunk
    • 1975 Tom Waits, "Spare Parts 1 (A Nocturnal Emission)," Nighthawks at the Diner, Asylum Records
      You see, it's a well known fact, you know / I'm four sheets to the wind, I'm glad you're gone
    • 2005 Richard LeVine, Awakening Waves: A True Adventure Story, Warm Wisdom Press, p133
      After a couple of hours many people were four sheets to the wind, having had a few too many drinks.
    • 2009 Linda Hamalian, The Cramoisy Queen: A Life of Caresse Crosby, SIU Press, p9
      He would flee the apartment when the baby fussed and cried, only to return much later four sheets to the wind.