30 Idioms for Failure

Today, we’re diving into the whimsical and often humorous language of failure – idioms that add a splash of color to the canvas of our misadventures.

So, fasten your seatbelts, and let’s explore the myriad ways one can “hit the skids” or “go down the tubes” without losing our sense of humor.

30 idioms for failure

Idioms for Failure

Hit the Skids

Meaning: To experience a sudden and significant decline or failure.

In a Sentence: After the market crashed, his once-thriving business hit the skids, leaving him scrambling for a new strategy.

Bite the Dust

Meaning: To suffer defeat or failure, often in a dramatic or final manner.

In a Sentence: Despite the team’s valiant efforts, they had to bite the dust in the championship match, ending their winning streak.

Go Down the Tubes

Meaning: To fail or deteriorate irreversibly.

In a Sentence: The ambitious project went down the tubes when the funding was unexpectedly withdrawn.

Fall Flat on One’s Face

Meaning: To fail completely, especially in a public or embarrassing manner.

In a Sentence: His attempt at stand-up comedy fell flat on his face when the audience remained unresponsive to his jokes.

Throw in the Towel

Meaning: To give up or surrender; to admit defeat.

In a Sentence: After hours of trying to fix the broken computer, he finally threw in the towel and called for professional help.

Miss the Boat

Meaning: To fail to take advantage of an opportunity; to be too late.

In a Sentence: I missed the boat on investing in that startup, and now it’s become a billion-dollar company.

Drop the Ball

Meaning: To make a mistake or fail to do something important.

In a Sentence: The project’s success hinged on effective teamwork, but unfortunately, someone dropped the ball, causing delays.

Strike Out

Meaning: To fail in an endeavor, often in the context of sports or dating.

In a Sentence: Despite his impressive record, the star player struck out three times in a row during the crucial game.

Meet One’s Waterloo

Meaning: To face a final, overwhelming defeat.

In a Sentence: The once-mighty empire met its Waterloo in the face of economic collapse and internal strife.

Go Belly Up

Meaning: To go bankrupt or out of business.

In a Sentence: The small bookstore, facing tough competition from online retailers, eventually went belly up.

Fall by the Wayside

Meaning: To be abandoned or neglected, often due to lack of support.

In a Sentence: In the pursuit of new technologies, traditional methods sometimes fall by the wayside.

Sink Like a Lead Balloon

Meaning: To fail miserably or be extremely unsuccessful.

In a Sentence: His attempt at humor during the serious meeting sank like a lead balloon, earning him stern glares from colleagues.

Come a Cropper

Meaning: To fail or fall suddenly and heavily.

In a Sentence: Attempting a daring stunt without proper preparation, he came a cropper, landing in the hospital with multiple injuries.

Go Up in Smoke

Meaning: To fail dramatically or to be ruined.

In a Sentence: All their efforts to save the historic building went up in smoke when a massive fire engulfed it.

Go Pear-Shaped

Meaning: To go wrong or become a disaster.

In a Sentence: What seemed like a promising business venture quickly went pear-shaped due to unforeseen challenges.

End Up in the Gutter

Meaning: To fail spectacularly, often leading to a state of poverty or despair.

In a Sentence: After a series of bad decisions, his once successful career ended up in the gutter.

Trip Over One’s Own Feet

Meaning: To be the cause of one’s own failure or downfall.

In a Sentence: In trying to outsmart his opponent, he tripped over his own feet, resulting in a humiliating defeat.

Burn One’s Bridges

Meaning: To destroy one’s relationships or opportunities, making a return difficult.

In a Sentence: By publicly criticizing his colleagues, he unknowingly burned his bridges, making collaboration impossible.

Go Down the Drain

Meaning: To fail or be wasted, often referring to efforts or resources.

In a Sentence: Months of hard work went down the drain when the project was unexpectedly canceled.

Hit a Brick Wall

Meaning: To encounter an insurmountable obstacle or barrier.

In a Sentence: Despite their innovative ideas, the startup hit a brick wall when they couldn’t secure necessary funding.

Draw a Blank

Meaning: To be unable to recall or think of something.

In a Sentence: During the exam, he drew a blank when trying to remember the key formula, leading to a lower grade.

Fizzle Out

Meaning: To gradually lose strength or interest, often resulting in failure.

In a Sentence: The once-popular trend eventually fizzled out as newer, more exciting options emerged.

Go Up in Flames

Meaning: To fail spectacularly or destructively.

In a Sentence: The ambitious plan to revolutionize the industry went up in flames when internal conflicts emerged.

Be a Dead Duck

Meaning: To be doomed or destined for failure.

In a Sentence: The outdated technology proved to be a dead duck in the rapidly evolving market.

Bite Off More Than One Can Chew

Meaning: To take on more responsibility or challenges than one can handle.

In a Sentence: In their enthusiasm for the project, they bit off more than they could chew, leading to burnout.

Go Over Like a Lead Balloon

Meaning: To be received poorly or fail to impress.

In a Sentence: His attempt at a new management strategy went over like a lead balloon, causing discontent among the team.

Crash and Burn

Meaning: To fail disastrously or come to a swift and complete end.

In a Sentence: The risky investment had the potential for great returns but ended up crashing and burning, leaving investors with heavy losses.

Go Off the Rails

Meaning: To lose control or go astray, often in a chaotic manner.

In a Sentence: The company’s expansion plans went off the rails when the CEO abruptly resigned, causing uncertainty among stakeholders.

Miss the Mark

Meaning: To fail to meet expectations or achieve a goal.

In a Sentence: Despite their efforts, the advertising campaign missed the mark, failing to resonate with the target audience.

Run Out of Steam

Meaning: To lose energy, momentum, or enthusiasm, resulting in failure.

In a Sentence: The once-exciting project ran out of steam as team members grew weary of the constant challenges.

Gain profound insights into the complexities of setbacks with metaphors that paint a vivid picture of failure.

Additionally, explore subtle comparisons through similes for failure to enhance your understanding of adversity. For a comprehensive exploration, visit Metaphors for Failure and Similes for Failure.

Summary

IdiomMeaningExample Sentence
Hit the SkidsSudden and significant decline or failureAfter the market crashed, his business hit the skids, leaving him scrambling for a new strategy.
Bite the DustSuffer defeat or failure in a dramatic mannerDespite the team’s efforts, they had to bite the dust in the championship match, ending their streak.
Go Down the TubesIrreversible failure or deteriorationThe ambitious project went down the tubes when funding was unexpectedly withdrawn.
Fall Flat on One’s FaceFail completely, often in a public or embarrassing mannerHis attempt at stand-up comedy fell flat on his face when the audience remained unresponsive.
Throw in the TowelGive up or surrender; admit defeatAfter hours of trying to fix the computer, he finally threw in the towel and called for help.
Miss the BoatFail to take advantage of an opportunity; be too lateI missed the boat on investing in that startup, and now it’s a billion-dollar company.
Drop the BallMake a mistake or fail to do something importantThe project’s success hinged on teamwork, but someone dropped the ball, causing delays.
Strike OutFail in an endeavor, often in sports or datingDespite his record, the star player struck out three times in a row during the crucial game.
Meet One’s WaterlooFace a final, overwhelming defeatThe once-mighty empire met its Waterloo in economic collapse and internal strife.
Go Belly UpGo bankrupt or out of businessThe small bookstore, facing tough competition, eventually went belly up.
Fall by the WaysideBe abandoned or neglected due to lack of supportIn the pursuit of new technologies, traditional methods sometimes fall by the wayside.
Sink Like a Lead BalloonFail miserably or be extremely unsuccessfulHis attempt at humor during the meeting sank like a lead balloon, earning stern glares.
Come a CropperFail or fall suddenly and heavilyAttempting a daring stunt without preparation, he came a cropper, landing in the hospital.
Go Up in SmokeFail dramatically or be ruinedAll efforts to save the historic building went up in smoke when a massive fire engulfed it.
Go Pear-ShapedGo wrong or become a disasterWhat seemed like a promising business venture quickly went pear-shaped due to unforeseen challenges.
End Up in the GutterFail spectacularly, often leading to poverty or despairAfter bad decisions, his successful career ended up in the gutter.
Trip Over One’s Own FeetBe the cause of one’s own failure or downfallIn trying to outsmart his opponent, he tripped over his own feet, resulting in a humiliating defeat.
Burn One’s BridgesDestroy relationships or opportunities, making a return difficultPublicly criticizing colleagues, he burned his bridges, making collaboration impossible.
Go Down the DrainFail or be wasted, often referring to efforts or resourcesMonths of hard work went down the drain when the project was unexpectedly canceled.
Hit a Brick WallEncounter an insurmountable obstacle or barrierDespite innovative ideas, the startup hit a brick wall when they couldn’t secure necessary funding.
Draw a BlankBe unable to recall or think of somethingDuring the exam, he drew a blank when trying to remember the key formula, leading to a lower grade.
Fizzle OutGradually lose strength or interest, often resulting in failureThe once-popular trend eventually fizzled out as newer, more exciting options emerged.
Go Up in FlamesFail spectacularly or destructivelyThe ambitious plan to revolutionize the industry went up in flames when internal conflicts emerged.
Be a Dead DuckBe doomed or destined for failureThe outdated technology proved to be a dead duck in the rapidly evolving market.
Bite Off More Than One Can ChewTake on more responsibility or challenges than one can handleIn their enthusiasm, they bit off more than they could chew, leading to burnout.
Go Over Like a Lead BalloonBe received poorly or fail to impressHis attempt at a new management strategy went over like a lead balloon, causing discontent.
Crash and BurnFail disastrously or come to a swift and complete endThe risky investment had great potential but ended up crashing and burning, leaving heavy losses.
Go Off the RailsLose control or go astray, often in a chaotic mannerThe company’s expansion plans went off the rails when the CEO abruptly resigned, causing uncertainty.
Miss the MarkFail to meet expectations or achieve a goalDespite efforts, the advertising campaign missed the mark, failing to resonate with the target audience.
Run Out of SteamLose energy, momentum, or enthusiasm, resulting in failureThe once-exciting project ran out of steam as team members grew weary of constant challenges.

Conclusion

In the unpredictable journey of life, these idioms for failure add a touch of humor to the inevitable missteps we encounter. Whether you’re hitting the skids, biting the dust, or going down the tubes, remember that failure is often a stepping stone to success.

Scroll to Top