American Idioms – Idiom Wizard Lists Over 5,500 Idioms & Slang Descriptions

On the ropes


Nearly defeated. Often used in circumstances when a business or relationship is failing. Phrase comes from boxing when one competitor has been slugged so often that they are hanging onto the ropes of the boxing ring and soon will probably be defeated by a superior boxer.The Rocky movies always start with the boxer losing and being literally,on the ropes but by the end of the movies he becomes a champion again; the phrase and the movies suggest that one can be losing but become victorious eventually.  (Compare to On the rocks or One foot in the grave.)

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