Left in the Lurch – Idiom, 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.

Has someone ever left you feeling abandoned or unsupported in a difficult situation? If yes, you may have been left in the lurch. If you’re anything like a lot of people and are curious about this phrase, buckle up because I’m about to show you everything you need to know about this weird idiom!

Left in the Lurch or Leave in the Lurch?

Left in the Lurch Idiom Origin Meaning

Both variations carry the same meaning, whether you use left in the lurch or leave in the lurch. It all depends on the verb tense you need for your sentence. Leave in the lurch is present or future tense, while left in the lurch is past tense.

  • He’s going to leave you in the lurch.
  • He left you in the lurch.

Meaning of Left in the Lurch

When you’re left in the lurch, someone has left you in a difficult or uncomfortable position without any assistance or support. It’s used when someone abandons or neglects you during a critical time when you need their help the most.

When I first launched my career as an Interior Designer, my boss showed me around the office, then to my desk, and asked me to design something using their in-house software, then she left. I remember staring at my computer screen, thinking, “I have never used this software in my life.” I was left in the lurch!

Left in the Lurch Origin and Etymology

In this context, lurch is a noun that dates back to the 1500s that means predicament. But this idiom can also be found in an old French board game called Lorche, which is similar to backgammon, and was played in the Middle Ages. In this game, a player lurched if they were in a position where they couldn’t win, basically left in a losing situation. The concept of this old game has since fallen out of favor.

What Is Another Word for Left in the Lurch?

Try any one of these simple synonyms instead of saying left in the lurch.

  • Abandoned
  • Deserted
  • Marooned
  • Neglected
  • Stranded
  • Forsaken
  • High and dry
  • Out in the cold

Left in the Lurch Examples in a Sentence

Left in the Lurch Idiom Origin Meaning 1
  • When the company downsized, many employees were left in the lurch without severance or any kind of benefits.
  • I was left in the lurch when my carpool ride to work forgot all about me.
  • The sudden disappearance of their coach left the team in the lurch in the middle of finals.
  • Listen, I hate to leave you in the lurch, but I really need to catch my flight.
  • My only roommate moved out without notice, leaving me in the lurch with the rent due two days before rent day.
  • My publisher was left in the lurch when the overseas printer failed to print my new book for launch day.

Don’t Get Left in the Lurch With Grammar

While nobody likes being left in the lurch, knowing and understanding this idiom can certainly add color to our language. After all, idioms like this one allow us to express complex feelings and situations in a universally succinct, understood way! Stick around and learn more about fun idioms!