Doesn’t hold water

Doesn’t hold water is an idiom that has been in use since the 1600s. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, 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 like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. 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; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common saying doesn’t hold water, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Doesn’t hold water describes an argument or narrative that is not logical, does not make sense, is not reasonable, or is not true. For instance, if a child tells his teacher that his dog ate his homework, the teacher may believe that his excuse doesn’t hold water. The expression doesn’t hold water has been in use to express skepticism in the face of an argument or narrative since the 1600s. The image is one of a bucket or other vessel that leaks and does not fulfill the use it was intended for.


One of the purported benefits of implementing a shot clock into high school basketball is that it will prepare athletes for what they’ll see in college, but that argument doesn’t hold water considering the minute percentage of high school athletes who actually wind up playing college basketball. (The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

“But just like claims of voter fraud in this election, the claims that this bill is going to cause financial hardship to cities and counties doesn’t hold water.” (The Santa Fe New Mexican)

Cuomo and other governors say Trump’s argument doesn’t hold water since there are no guidelines to make sure hard-hit states are given preference without the Defense Production Act in place. (New York Daily News)

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