Learn 20 Expressions Related to Misfortune

Life is full of ups and downs, and the English language has a rich tapestry of expressions to describe those less fortunate moments. From spilled milk to more severe setbacks, these idioms and phrases help us express sympathy, relate shared experiences, and sometimes even add a touch of humor to soften the blow of misfortune. Here are 20 expressions related to misfortune, each with a concise explanation and example to help you understand and use them in everyday conversation.

Expressions Related to Misfortune

1. Bad break

Meaning: An unfortunate or unlucky occurrence.

Example: He got a bad break when he lost his job.

2. Down on one’s luck

Meaning: Experiencing a period of bad luck.

Example: She’s been down on her luck since the move.

3. Out of the frying pan into the fire

Meaning: Going from a bad situation to one that is worse.

Example: Leaving that job was like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.

4. When it rains, it pours

Meaning: Problems or misfortunes tend to come all at once.

Example: He lost his wallet and his car broke down—when it rains, it pours.

5. A turn for the worse

Meaning: A situation deteriorating or becoming worse.

Example: His health took a turn for the worse overnight.

6. Back to square one

Meaning: Having to start all over again after a failure or defeat.

Example: After the deal fell through, it was back to square one.

7. Barking up the wrong tree

Meaning: A mistaken or misguided approach, leading to poor results.

Example: They were barking up the wrong tree with their business strategy.

8. Between a rock and a hard place

Meaning: In a situation facing two equally difficult alternatives.

Example: Choosing between the two offers put her between a rock and a hard place.

9. Born under a bad sign

Meaning: Having constant bad luck.

Example: He always said he was born under a bad sign.

10. Burn the midnight oil

Meaning: To work late into the night, often leading to exhaustion or negative consequences.

Example: She burned the midnight oil too often and got sick.

11. Catch-22 situation

Meaning: A dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting conditions.

Example: Needing experience to get a job but needing a job to get experience is a catch-22.

12. Come to grief

Meaning: To suffer a disaster or misfortune.

Example: The project came to grief after the funding was cut.

13. Cut off your nose to spite your face

Meaning: To do something out of spite that is self-destructive in the end.

Example: He quit his job out of anger, but it was just cutting off his nose to spite his face.

14. Dig oneself into a hole

Meaning: To get into a difficult situation.

Example: He dug himself into a hole with his reckless spending.

15. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch

Meaning: Don’t assume success before it actually happens.

Example: He planned on using the prize money before winning the contest, but I told him don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

16. Fall through the cracks

Meaning: To be overlooked or neglected.

Example: Some important details fell through the cracks during planning.

17. Hit a snag

Meaning: Encounter a sudden or unexpected problem.

Example: The renovation hit a snag when they found mold in the walls.

18. In a tight spot

Meaning: In a difficult or precarious situation.

Example: Losing her passport abroad put her in a tight spot.

19. On thin ice

Meaning: In a risky, precarious, or sensitive situation.

Example: He’s on thin ice with his boss after missing the deadline.

20. Up the creek without a paddle

Meaning: In a challenging situation without any help or a way out.

Example: When his car broke down in the desert, he was up the creek without a paddle.


Expressions Related to Misfortune