What does the idiom "on the blink" mean?

The expression on the blink 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 on the blink idiom.

Meaning of "on the blink"


The phrase “on the blink” is an informal idiom used to describe an item that does not function as it should, normally due to mechanical or electrical fault. A more common phrase for this is to say something is “broken”. The “blink” refers to a light that is flashing, implying that the item is not in working condition.


The phrase “on the blink” is believed to have originated in the early 20th century. The exact origin of the phrase is unclear, however it is widely accepted that it may have derived from the phrase “blinking light” or “blinking signal”, which was used to describe an electric or mechanical fault in an apparatus. The first use of the phrase “on the blink” was in the 1920s, in an American newspaper.


The phrase “on the blink” can be used to describe any broken or malfunctioning item, including electrical items such as computers, televisions and phones, as well as mechanical items such as cars and machines. It can also be used to describe a person’s mental or emotional state, indicating that they are not functioning properly.

Example Sentences

  • My phone is on the blink again, I think I'm going to have to get a new one.
  • The machine is on the blink, so I can't get my work done.
  • I think something's wrong with John, he's been a bit on the blink recently.

The meanings of the words in the "on the blink" 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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