What does the idiom "down the drain" mean?

The expression down the drain is one of the idioms that often finds a place in our literature and enriches our language. However, its meaning is not fully understood, so it is sometimes used in the wrong situations. Please review the explanation carefully for the correct use of the down the drain idiom.

Meaning of "down the drain"

Meaning

The phrase “down the drain” is a popular idiom used to describe something that has been irretrievably lost or rendered useless. This phrase suggests that whatever has been “lost” is no longer salvageable and has been rendered worthless because it is effectively gone forever. This phrase is commonly used to convey a sense of disappointment or failure.

Etymology

The phrase “down the drain” is believed to have originated from the plumbing industry in the late 19th century. The phrase “down the drain” would have been used to describe something that had been washed away in the sewers, as something that is “down the drain” is assumed to be gone forever and never retrievable. This phrase would eventually transition from the plumbing industry and be used in everyday vernacular by the early-mid 20th century, becoming a popular idiom in the process.

Usage

The phrase “down the drain” is typically used to describe the feeling of disappointment or failure related to something that has been disregarded and rendered useless. This phrase is often used to describe the feeling of having worked hard on something with the expectation of it succeeding, only to have it fail and end up being “down the drain”. This phrase can also be used to describe a wasted opportunity or wasted resources, as something that is “down the drain” is not coming back.

Example Sentences

  • My hard work and efforts went down the drain when the project failed.
  • I was so disappointed when my plans all went down the drain.
  • She was crushed when her dream of becoming an actress went down the drain.
  • We wasted so much money on the project and it all went down the drain.
  • All that time studying for the exam went down the drain when I failed.

The meanings of the words in the "down the drain" idiom

The Surprising Origins of Everyday English Idioms

Many English idioms have surprisingly dark origins, often rooted in violence, death, and superstition. For instance, the phrase "raining cats and dogs" is said to have originated in the 17th century, when heavy rain would often cause dead animals to wash up on the streets. Meanwhile, the idiom "rule of thumb" is believed to have originated from a law that allowed men to beat their wives with a stick no thicker than their thumb.

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