Lose one’s shirt

Lose one’s shirt is an idiom that dates to the twentieth century. 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 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 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 is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, chin up, 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, as 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. We will examine the meaning of the idiom lose one’s shirt, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To lose one’s shirt means to lose one’s savings, income, or financial stake. The expression lose one’s shirt describes someone who has lost a great deal, often it describes someone who has lost everything he owns or has gone broke. The expression lose one’s shirt came into use in the 1930s and is probably a description of what happened to many people during the stock market crash in 1929–they lost everything; metaphorically, they even lost the shirts on their backs. Related phrases are loses one’s shirt, lost one’s shirt, losing one’s shirt.


“I’m not going to lose my shirt over this… I opened my brick and mortar May 6 (2019). (The Mercer Island Reporter)

“How do I handle this as a good wedding vendor, how do I handle this as a good business person and how do I not lose my shirt trying to be good?” Thompson said she’s been asking herself. (The Roanoke Times)

“I lost my shirt doing discounts, and I’m not doing it anymore,” he said, adding that any constable can provide discounts. (The Las Vegas Review-Journal)

I got involved in real estate investing over 10 years ago and lost my shirt. (Forbes Magazine)