Washed up or all washed up

The idiom washed up or all washed up came into use in the 1920s. 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 washed up or all washed up, where it may came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Washed up or all washed up describes someone whose career is ruined, someone who is no longer successful, someone who has lost his status or is no longer popular or esteemed. The idiom washed up or all washed up came into use in the 1920s and seems to have started as a theatrical term. Originally, washed up or all washed up simply meant that the person in question had finished performing and had washed the stage makeup off his face. In time, washed up or all washed up came to mean that someone was finished for all time, that his career was ruined and that the he would never perform again. The expression washed up is hyphenated when used as an adjective before a noun, as in washed-up.


Most fans around here figured he was washed up when Boston signed him as a free agent in 1971. (The Concord Monitor)

Within a year, Matt was declared bankrupt, told he was ‘washed up’ at 28 and would never be able to succeed in business again. (The Mirror)

It reminded him a bit of Jack Nicklaus winning the U.S. Open at Baltusrol in 1980, the crowds invading the course as the Golden Bear wrapped up a victory that defied those skeptics who thought he was all washed up at age 40. (AP)

By the time Paul reached his senior year of high school, however, he was being recast as a cautionary tale, or as Bleacher Report bluntly put it: he was “all washed up” at age 17. (Forbes Magazine)

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