What does the idiom "Get out of hand" mean?

Idioms are generally defined as groups of words that form a meaningful whole when they come together, even though the words in them do not make sense on their own. They have produced many idioms according to their own cultural characteristics in communities using the English language. What does Get out of hand mean? In what situations is Get out of hand used?

Meaning of "Get out of hand"


The phrase "get out of hand" is an idiom which generally describes a situation that has grown either chaotic or uncontrollable. It implies that the situation has reached a point where it is no longer possible to easily regain control or order. It is often used to describe situations where the process in question is spiraling out of control, and has become too chaotic or unpredictable to be effectively managed.


The phrase "get out of hand" first appeared in English in the early 19th century and likely derives from the nautical term "hand"- which was used to refer to the ropes used to guide a ship. The phrase likely originated as a reference to these ropes becoming tangled or unrestrained and thus "out of hand".


The phrase "get out of hand" is often used in situations that involve large groups of people or complex processes. It can be used to describe situations where people are not respecting rules, boundaries, or processes that had been previously established. It is also often used to describe situations where the actions of a group of people have resulted in chaos. For example, a teacher may say that a classroom has "gotten out of hand" if the students become too rowdy and start to disrupt the class. Alternatively, it can be used to describe situations where a project or task has become unmanageable due to unexpected or unpredictable complications. For example, if a project requires a high level of precision and detail, but the process starts to become too complex to manage properly, then one could say that the situation has "gotten out of hand".

Example Sentences

  • The project had been going smoothly until it suddenly got out of hand and we realized it was too late to make any changes.
  • The meeting got out of hand when everyone started shouting over each other.
  • The party was fun until it got out of hand and the police had to be called.
  • She had been handling the situation well, but it eventually got out of hand and she had to call for help.

The meanings of the words in the "Get out of hand" idiom

The power of idioms transcends languages!

"Putting the cart before the horse" is an English idiom that means doing things in the wrong order. In Russian, the similar idiom is "Кладёт колесо впереди лошади," which translates to "Putting the cart before the horse." This idiom emphasizes the idea that doing things in the wrong order can lead to confusion and problems down the line.


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