Dead meat

To be dead meat is an idiom that has been in use in a metaphoric way for about 75 years. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, hit the nail on the head, kick the bucket, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idiom to be dead meat, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To be dead meat means to be dead. In this case, dead meat refers to a dead body. Most often, the idiom to be dead meat is used to indicate that someone is in severe trouble, that someone has performed a serious transgression that will have serious consequences, or that someone has made such a grave mistake he can not bounce back and be successful in his endeavor. The expression to be dead meat is often used as a threat, as in you are dead meat. The phrase dead meat came into use in the mid-1800s to mean a corpse. By the mid-1900s, the term dead meat came to mean someone is in severe trouble.


I didn’t know what that expression meant, but I saw his face change structure and I knew I was dead meat. (The Irish Times)

I was getting looks from the film crew as if I was dead meat. (The Daily Express)

If you don’t have a Netflix subscription at this age, you are dead meat! (The Daily Bayonet)

I thought if I tell anyone you are dead meat. (The Liverpool Echo)

Retrospectively, it seems that was a tactical decision made by a boy who knew he was dead meat already. (Vanity Fair)

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