Drop the Ball – Idiom, Origin and 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.

In our daily conversations with friends, family and co-workers, we tend to use idioms and certain expressions to convey our thoughts and feelings more effectively. It’s kind of like how we use memes online.

One common idiom is “drop the ball,” which is used in so many ways. But which is the right way? My guide is all about breaking down the meaning behind the phrase while sharing the origin of it and showing you how to properly use “drop the ball” in a sentence.

Meaning of the Phrase Drop the Ball

Drop the Ball Idiom Origin Meaning

“Drop the ball” is a pretty common idiomatic expression we use that means to fail in one’s responsibilities or duties, make a mistake, or simply let someone down. You’ll see it used in contexts where someone didn’t live up to the expectations of others or didn’t complete something the way they should have.

I just have to share this great example from my own life that happened recently. I just got back from a book signing at a convention out of town. I was scheduled to host a discussion panel on writing and was asked to bring a slideshow presentation, but I forgot my thumb drive and couldn’t do it. I completely dropped the ball on that one.

Different Tenses and How to Use Them

  • Past tense: Dropped the ball

“I’m sorry, I dropped the ball on that assignment. I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

  • Present tense: Dropping the ball

“He’s been dropping the ball a lot lately; we need to address his performance.”

Origin of Drop the Ball

Surprise, surprise! The origin of the phrase “drop the ball” is rooted in sports, specifically baseball. In the game of baseball, when a fielder drops a ball that should have been caught, it’s considered a major error, which leads to a negative consequence for the team. They literally dropped the ball.

So, naturally, the phrase just became widely used around the world whenever someone simply failed to do something or didn’t do it right, usually leading to the let down of people depending on them.

Drop the Ball Synonyms

  • Mess up
  • Slip up
  • Make a mistake
  • Fail
  • Fumble
  • Failed to deliver

Drop the Ball Examples in a Sentence

Drop the Ball Idiom Origin Meaning 1
  • I seriously dropped the ball when I forgot to bring my flash drive to the presentation.
  • Danni dropped the ball on organizing the big event for work, and we had to scramble to get everything done at the last minute.
  • Dang, management really dropped the ball by not communicating those new changes effectively.
  • We can’t afford to keep dropping the ball like this; it’s hurting our reputation around town.
  • The author dropped the ball when she forgot to bring books to her book signing.
  • I dropped the ball as a parent when I missed my kid’s soccer game.

Don’t Drop the Ball

This is a versatile phrase that can be used lightly or heavily, depending on the matter at hand. So, the next time you need to describe a situation where someone failed to fulfill their duties or made an error, don’t hesitate to use this versatile and expressive idiom.