meet one's Waterloo

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A reference to Napoleon Bonaparte’s defeat by armies of Britain and Prussia at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815, which marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Waterloo is a municipality south of Brussels in what is now the province of Walloon Brabant, Belgium.


  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˈmiːt wʌnz ˌwɔːtə(ɹ)ˈluː/
  • (General American) IPA(key): /ˈmit wʌnz ˌwɔtɚˈluː/, /ˌwɑ-/, /ˈwɔtɚˌluː/, /ˈwɑ-/, [-ɾɚ-]
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: meet one's Wa‧ter‧loo


meet one's Waterloo (third-person singular simple present meets one's Waterloo, present participle meeting one's Waterloo, simple past and past participle met one's Waterloo)

  1. To be decisively defeated by an encounter with a powerful opponent or a problem that is too difficult.
    • 1864 April 7, “The Dove of the Regiment. An Incident of the Battle of Chickamauga.”, in Frank Moore, editor, The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events, with Documents, Narratives, Illustrative Incidents, Poetry, etc., volume VII, New York, N.Y.: D[avid] Van Nostrand, [], →OCLC, page 91, column 1:
      Now glory the stars and bars, what may not valor do? / Our foe, in Georgia's dread defiles, has met his Waterloo!
    • 1878 April 18, “Fractional Currency”, in J[ohn] J. W. O’Donoghue, editor, The Chronicle. A Journal Devoted to the Interests of Insurance, volume XXI, number 16, New York, N.Y.: Chronicle Publishing Company, [], →OCLC, page 247:
      Lloyds' and other methods of effecting insurance while avoiding the impositions, vexations and expenses of state supervision, are likely to meet their Waterloo if the following bill introduced by Senator Pierce, of Buffalo, into the legislature at Albany on the 11th inst. becomes a law: [...]
    • 2001, Anne V. McGravie, The Cairn Stones: A Play in Two Acts, Woodstock, Ill.: Dramatic Publishing, →ISBN, act I, page 16:
      The plan: finally to accept you as a novice. Though even Sister Superior meets her Waterloo in you. A year, then home for good.
    • 2010, Nelson Chang, Laurence Chang, with Song Luxia, “Zhang Congyu, a Master Appraiser of Chinese Paintings”, in The Zhangs from Nanxun: A One Hundred and Fifty Year Chronicle of a Chinese Family, Denver, Colo.: CF Press, →ISBN, part 4 (Later Generations of the South Branch), pages 370–371:
      [...] Zhang's diary is peppered with entries recording his nightly losses at the card table: "I lose two thousand taels," "I lose five hundred taels," or "I am defeated" are typical jottings. One entry from 1938 summed up his card playing: "At night, [I went] to Zhou Wenrui's for gambling, meeting my Waterloo."


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