At Sixes and Sevens – Origin & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

If you want to make your conversations with others livelier and more relatable, idiomatic expressions like at sixes and sevens can be pretty handy. But what does this peculiar phrase mean, and how should you really use it? Let’s find out together!

At Sixes and Sevens Idiom Meaning Explained

At Sixes and Sevens Origin Meaning

The idiomatic phrase at sixes and sevens is meant to describe a state of confusion, disarray, disorder, or a situation marked by chaos or disagreement. If someone or something is at sixes and sevens, it means that they’re in a state of uncertainty or indecision.

I can relate because I feel like that all the time! As a busy mother, wife, content writer, author and owner of two small businesses, I’m often confused and indecisive about many things. It just comes with the territory.

Sixes and Sevens or 6s and 7s?

Although 6s and 7s might be used in informal written conversation like emails or text messages, sixes and sevens is the phrase’s more accepted and correct form. So, you should always write it out in letters rather than numerals, which is usually the case in English when dealing with numbers less than ten.

Origin of at Sixes and Sevens

At Sixes and Sevens Ngram
At sixes and sevens usage trend.

The idiom at sixes and sevens came out of the 14th century from an old dice game where throwing a six or a seven was filled with risk and uncertainty. It appeared in Chaucer’s work “Troilus and Criseyde,” back in 1374, and the excerpt read, “Lat nat this wrechched wo thyn herte gnawe, But manly set the world on sexe and seuene.”

Synonyms for at Sixes and Sevens

Sometimes, a synonym can offer another perspective on an idiom’s meaning. So, here are some synonyms to use instead of at sixes and sevens.

  • In a state of confusion
  • In disorder
  • In disarray
  • In chaos
  • In some state
  • In a muddle
  • In a jumble
  • In a mess

Examples of at Sixes and Sevens in a Sentence

At Sixes and Sevens Origin Meaning 1

Want to see how you can use this odd phrase? Here’s a decent list of full sentences showing how to slip this expression into a conversation.

  • The whole city was at sixes and sevens after the earthquake.
  • When the manager suddenly quit on everyone, the project was left at sixes and sevens for weeks.
  • Jane was at sixes and sevens when she unexpectedly lost her job as an ice cream maker.
  • After hearing the shocking news about my favorite celebrity’s passing, my thoughts and emotion were all at sixes and sevens.
  • With their leader gone, the team found themselves at sixes and sevens and left in the middle of nowhere.
  • The event preparations were at sixes and sevens without a clear plan.
  • Jake’s sudden marriage proposal after dating for just a few weeks left her feeling at sixes and sevens.

Dazed and Confused

The idiom at sixes and sevens is a vivid way to depict confusion or disorder in any situation. Using it accurately can help you enhance your vocabulary and brighten your conversations. Remember, idioms like these are the secret ingredients that can add spice to your language and make it more engaging and relatable.

Enjoyed reading about this idiom? Check out some others we covered: