leave in the lurch


  1. a situation at the close of various games in which the loser scores nothing or is far behind the opponent.


  1. leave in the lurch, to leave in an uncomfortable or desperate situation; desert in time of trouble: Our best salesperson left us in the lurch at the peak of the busy season.

verb (intr)

  1. to lean or pitch suddenly to one side
  2. to stagger or sway


  1. the act or an instance of lurching


  1. leave someone in the lurch to desert someone in trouble
  2. cribbage the state of a losing player with less than 30 points at the end of a game (esp in the phrase in the lurch)


  1. (intr) archaic, or dialect to prowl or steal about suspiciously

n.1“sudden pitch to one side,” 1784, from earlier lee-larches (1765), a nautical term for “the sudden roll which a ship makes to lee-ward in a high sea, when a large wave strikes her, and bears her weather-side violently up, which depresses the other in proportion” [“Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences,” London 1765]; perhaps from French lacher “to let go,” from Latin laxus (see lax). When a Ship is brought by the Lee, it is commonly occaſsioned by a large Sea, and by the Neglect of the Helm’s-man. When the Wind is two or three Points on the Quarter, the Ship taking a Lurch, brings the Wind on the other Side, and lays the Sails all dead to the Maſt; as the Yards are braced up, ſhe then having no Way, and the Helm being of no Service, I would therefore brace about the Head ſails ſharp the other Way …. [John Hamilton Moore, Practical Navigator, 8th ed., 1784] n.2“predicament,” 1580s, from Middle English lurch (v.) “to beat in a game of skill (often by a great many points),” mid-14c., probably literally “to make a complete victory in lorche,” a game akin to backgammon, from Old French lourche. The game name is perhaps related to Middle English lurken, lorken “to lie hidden, lie in ambush,” or it may be adopted into French from Middle High German lurz “left,” also “wrong.” v.1821, from lurch (n.1). Related: Lurched; lurching. Abandon or desert someone in difficult straits. For example, Jane was angry enough to quit without giving notice, leaving her boss in the lurch. This expression alludes to a 16th-century French dice game, lourche, where to incur a lurch meant to be far behind the other players. It later was used in cribbage and other games, as well as being used in its present figurative sense by about 1600. see leave in the lurch.

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