take the wind out of someone's sails

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Referring to the idea of a ship that intercepts the wind of another, causing it to slow or stop.


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take the wind out of someone's sails

  1. (idiomatic) To discourage someone greatly; to cause someone to lose hope or the will to continue; to thwart or minimize someone's ambitions.
    • c. 1860, Louisa May Alcott, "Aunt Kipp":
      "I tell you Van Bahr Lamb is a fool." . . .
      But Polly . . . completely took the wind out of her sails, by coolly remarking,— "I like fools."
    • 1922, Frances Hodgson Burnett, chapter 31, in The Head of the House of Coombe:
      Could he have some elderly idea of wanting a youngster for a wife? Occasionally an old chap did. Serve him right if some young chap took the wind out of his sails.
    • 1990 May 27, Serge Schmemann, "German rightist quits after party suffers setback," New York Times (retrieved 17 July 2011):
      [T]he Republicans . . . have been repeatedly battered in the polls since German unification became a mainstream German concern and took the wind out of their sails.
    • 2011 April 14, "Quotes of the Day," Time:
      "It took the wind out of our sails," he says. "I had no Plan B. I was a wreck."