short end of the stick

short end of the stick


  1. a branch or shoot of a tree or shrub that has been cut or broken off.
  2. a relatively long and slender piece of wood.
  3. a long piece of wood for use as fuel, in carpentry, etc.
  4. a rod or wand.
  5. a baton.
  6. Chiefly British. a walking stick or cane.
  7. a club or cudgel.
  8. something that serves to goad or coerce: The threat of unemployment was the stick that kept the workers toiling overtime.Compare carrot(def 3).
  9. a long, slender piece or part of anything: a stick of candy; sticks of celery.
  10. any of four equal parts in a pound of butter or margarine.
  11. Sports. an implement used to drive or propel a ball or puck, as a crosse or a hockey stick.
  12. Aeronautics. a lever, usually with a handle, by which the longitudinal and lateral motions of an airplane are controlled.
  13. Nautical. a mast or spar.
  14. Printing. composing stick.
  15. the sticks, Informal. any region distant from cities or towns, as rural districts; the country: Having lived in a large city all his life, he found it hard to adjust to the sticks.
  16. Military.
    1. a group of bombs so arranged as to be released in a row across a target.
    2. the bomb load.
  17. Informal. stick shift.
  18. Slang. a marijuana cigarette.
  19. Informal. an unenthusiastic or uninteresting person.
  20. Informal. a portion of liquor, as brandy, added to a nonalcoholic drink.

verb (used with object), sticked, stick·ing.

  1. to furnish (a plant, vine, etc.) with a stick or sticks in order to prop or support.
  2. Printing. to set (type) in a composing stick.
  1. short/dirty end of the stick, Slang. the least desirable assignment, decision, or part of an arrangement.


  1. a small thin branch of a tree
    1. any long thin piece of wood
    2. such a piece of wood having a characteristic shape for a special purposea walking stick; a hockey stick
    3. a baton, wand, staff, or rod
  2. an object or piece shaped like a sticka stick of celery; a stick of dynamite
  3. See control stick
  4. informal the lever used to change gear in a motor vehicle
  5. nautical a mast or yard
  6. printing See composing stick
    1. a group of bombs arranged to fall at intervals across a target
    2. a number of paratroops jumping in sequence
  7. slang
    1. verbal abuse, criticismI got some stick for that blunder
    2. physical power, force (esp in the phrase give it some stick)
  8. (usually plural) a piece of furniturethese few sticks are all I have
  9. (plural) informal a rural area considered remote or backward (esp in the phrase in the sticks)
  10. (plural) Canadian West coast and Northwestern Canadian informal the wooded interior part of the country
  11. (plural) hockey a declaration made by the umpire if a player’s stick is above the shoulders
  12. (plural) goalposts
  13. US obsolete a cannabis cigarette
  14. a means of coercion
  15. informal a dull boring person
  16. (usually preceded by old) informal a familiar name for a personnot a bad old stick
  17. in a cleft stick in a difficult position
  18. wrong end of the stick a complete misunderstanding of a situation, explanation, etc

verb sticks, sticking or sticked

  1. to support (a plant) with sticks; stake

verb sticks, sticking or stuck

  1. (tr) to pierce or stab with or as if with something pointed
  2. to thrust or push (a sharp or pointed object) or (of a sharp or pointed object) to be pushed into or through another object
  3. (tr) to fasten in position by pushing or forcing a point into somethingto stick a peg in a hole
  4. (tr) to fasten in position by or as if by pins, nails, etcto stick a picture on the wall
  5. (tr) to transfix or impale on a pointed object
  6. (tr) to cover with objects piercing or set in the surface
  7. (when intr, foll by out, up, through, etc) to put forward or be put forward; protrude or cause to protrudeto stick one’s head out of the window
  8. (tr) informal to place or put in a specified positionstick your coat on this chair
  9. to fasten or be fastened by or as if by an adhesive substancestick the pages together; they won’t stick
  10. (tr) informal to cause to become sticky
  11. (when tr, usually passive) to come or cause to come to a standstillwe were stuck for hours in a traffic jam; the wheels stuck
  12. (intr) to remain for a long timethe memory sticks in my mind
  13. (tr) slang, mainly British to tolerate; abideI can’t stick that man
  14. (intr) to be reluctant
  15. (tr; usually passive) informal to cause to be at a loss; baffle, puzzle, or confuseI was totally stuck for an answer
  16. (tr) slang to force or impose something unpleasant onthey stuck me with the bill for lunch
  17. (tr) to kill by piercing or stabbing
  18. stick in one’s throat or stick in one’s craw informal to be difficult, or against one’s conscience, for one to accept, utter, or believe
  19. stick one’s nose into See nose (def. 17)
  20. stick to the ribs informal (of food) to be hearty and satisfying


  1. the state or condition of adhering
  2. informal a substance causing adhesion
  3. obsolete something that causes delay or stoppage

Old English sticca “rod, twig, spoon,” from Proto-Germanic *stikkon- “pierce, prick” (cf. Old Norse stik, Old High German stehho, German Stecken “stick, staff”), from PIE *steig- “to stick; pointed” (see stick (v.)). Meaning “staff used in a game” is from 1670s (originally billiards); meaning “manual gearshift lever” first recorded 1914. Stick-ball is attested from 1824. Alliterative connection of sticks and stones is recorded from mid-15c.


Old English stician “to pierce, stab,” also “to remain embedded, be fastened,” from Proto-Germanic *stik- “pierce, prick, be sharp” (cf. Old Saxon stekan, Old Frisian steka, Dutch stecken, Old High German stehhan, German stechen “to stab, prick”), from PIE *steig- (cf. Latin in-stigare “to goad;” Greek stizein “to prick, puncture,” stigma “mark made by a pointed instrument;” Old Persian tigra- “sharp, pointed;” Avestan tighri- “arrow;” Lithuanian stingu “to remain in place;” Russian stegati “to quilt”).

Figurative sense of “to remain permanently in mind” is attested from c.1300. Transitive sense of “to fasten (something) in place” is attested from late 13c. Stick out “project” is recorded from 1560s. Slang stick around “remain” is from 1912; stick it as a rude bit of advice is first recorded 1922.

In addition to the idioms beginning with stick

  • stick around
  • stick at
  • stick by
  • stick in one’s craw
  • stick it
  • stick it to someone
  • stick one’s neck out
  • stick out
  • stick to
  • stick together
  • stick to one’s guns
  • stick to one’s last
  • stick to the ribs
  • stick up
  • stick up for
  • stick with
  • sticky fingers

also see:

  • carrot and stick
  • get on the stick
  • make stick
  • more than one can shake a stick at
  • short end of the stick
  • stand (stick) up for
  • wrong end of the stick

Also see understuck.

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