Word and Phrase Origins
Idioms, Cliches, and Slang

What does the phrase 'behind the eight ball' mean?


Top Answer
User Avatar
Wiki User
2013-03-02 16:16:20
2013-03-02 16:16:20

From the eponymous game, the phrase 'to be behind the 8-ball' means being in a difficult situation.

This would seem to obviously stem from the fact that when playing 8-ball, the 8-ball must be pocketed after clearing the player's other seven balls (or, in some variations, that the 8-ball cannot be hit first). To be "behind" this ball would mean that the player has no clear shot at the balls he has left to sink.

Other sources suggest the term comes from Kelly Pool and refers to balls behind the 8 ball (i.e. higher in number), or that the black ball is harder to aim.


In the game of '8-ball', as well as many others, the object of the game is, simply, to pocket the 8-ball. Many rules prevent a player from simply shooting 'for' or 'at' the 8-ball directly, such as, for example, a rule stating the balls must be pocketed in numerical rotation, or, perhaps, seven 'stripes' or 'solids' must be pocketed first.

Nevertheless, a player behind the ball can still win. If his shot, as well as fulfilling any rule-based requirement, also, while at least one ball is still rolling, pockets the 8-ball.


The game is forfeited if a player's cue ball hits the (black) eight ball first. A 'behind the eight ball' position leaves a player in imminent danger of losing.
It means you have a potential problem


Related Questions

Eight ball tattoos have many meanings, depending on the persons intent behind it. It could stand for a very good player of pool, or it could stand for an eight ball of cocaine (1/8 ounce)

I believe the phrase comes from billiards players. Sometimes it is advantageous to place the cue ball behind the 8-ball so the other player doesn't have a clear shot at other balls on the table. Being behind the 8-ball means you are in a bad position or falling behind in an activity.

the truth behind something is the motivation for an action.

I heard it means something like the English phrase "on the ball".

The phrase possesion refers to the team/player carrying the ball

If a golfer traps the ball, this means the player hits the ball with a downward strike, pinching the ball between the club and the ground, hence the phrase, trapping the ball, glad I could be of assistance to you :)

If by "standard 8 ball" you mean "world standardize 8-ball" rules by the BCA, then the following rules apply. Under the "World standardized" 8-ball Rules published (Version 21/12/2007) by the BCA, it states the following: ---------------------------------------- Rule 3-3 Break Shot (e) Pocketing the eight ball on a legal break shot is not a foul. If the eight ball is pocketed, the breaker has the option of # re-spotting the eight ball and accepting the balls in position, or # re-breaking. (f) If the breaker pockets the eight ball and scratches (see definition 8.6 Scratch), the opponent has the option of # re-spotting the eight ball and shooting with cue ball in hand behind the head string; or # re-breaking. ---------------------------------------- So under the BCA rules, its neither a win nor a loss.

The phrase non sequitur is the Latin term meaning 'it does not follow'. It usually means that something is irrelevant or has no evidence or fact behind it.

Not knowing the exact context of the phrase, it probably means that somebody can bowl or pitch a ball so accurately, that he hit a Sixpence with the ball (at some distance).

Luck, Chance, Hope, Gambling, Predicting the future? Think about the purpose of an 8 ball...

If you rotate the ball while delivering it with your hand reaching about the 12 o'clock position, it's considered topping the ball. When delivering the ball, the hand should stay behind the ball and not in front.

"Belle" is beautiful woman in French. This phrase has come to mean that someone was the star of whatever the situation was.

It means that someone has mixed up three different expressions. One is "to be put behind the eight ball," which is an allusion to the game of pool, meaning to be placed in an awkward, difficult or untenable position. The second expression is to "throw someone a curve ball," which is an allusion to the game of baseball, meaning to suddenly introduce unexpected difficulties for someone. Third is to be "behind the curve," an allusion to graphs, meaning not at the leading edge of things, out of it, slow or stupid. As to what the sentence is TRYING to mean, that's anyone's guess. Maybe its intended meaning is He really dropped the ball that time, or He messed up hugely there.

I think you heard it wrong. There is a phrase "wet behing the ears," which means a novice at something, but nothing about writing behind the ears.

The phrase "man on" is normally shouted at a player with the ball to alert him to an un-rushing opposing player, usually because the opposition is approaching rapidly from behind and the ball-carrier can't see them. You can hear this shouted both be team members and by vocal members of the crowd.

Lases out refers to the way a holder holds the ball for the place kicker. It is important for the holder to hold the ball with the laces out for the best results when the kickers foot strikes the ball.

If this is Baseball, it means to stand in a hole in the defense, where if the ball is hit, there is no one around it.

To project negative thoughts and energy toward the ball so the receiver or players you want to jinx will fail to succeed in being victorious by scoring.

It means the offensive player holding the ball was tackled behind the line of scrimmage.

what does the phrase saw red mean

"Everything" we do is driven by our intrinsic need to survive. Monica Young

"blow a quarter" usually means spend $25"cop another eight" means buy an 8-ball whichis one eight of an ounce of cocaine

There is no meaning behind 'put a fat rabbit on a craftmatic'. Whomever uses this phrase may be using it as a slang phrase in reference to someone whom needs to lose weight.

An overhead pass is a pass thrown overhead. This is done by grabbing the ball with both hands and bringing it behind your head. After that, just chuck the ball forwards. That is an overhead pass.

Copyright ยฉ 2020 Multiply Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved. The material on this site can not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with prior written permission of Multiply.