rope [rohp] Word Origin noun

  1. a strong, thick line or cord, commonly one composed of twisted or braided strands of hemp, flax, or the like, or of wire or other material.
  2. a lasso.
  3. ropes,
    1. the cords used to enclose a prize ring or other space.
    2. Informal.the operations of a business or the details of any undertaking: The new employee didn’t take long to learn the ropes.
  4. a hangman’s noose, halter, or cord.
  5. the sentence or punishment of death by hanging.
  6. a quantity of material or a number of things twisted or strung together in the form of a cord: a rope of tobacco.
  7. a stringy, viscid, or glutinous formation in a liquid: ropes of slime.

verb (used with object), roped, rop·ing.

  1. to tie, bind, or fasten with a rope.
  2. to enclose, partition, or mark off with a rope or ropes (often followed by off).
  3. to catch with a lasso; lasso.
  4. Nautical. to reinforce (a sail or awning) with a boltrope.

verb (used without object), roped, rop·ing.

  1. to be drawn out into a filament of thread; become ropy.

Verb Phrases

  1. rope in, Informal. to lure or entice, especially by employing deception: The swindler had roped in a number of gullible persons.


  1. at the end of one’s rope, at the end of one’s endurance or means; at the limit: With all her savings gone and bills piling up, she was at the end of her rope.
  2. give someone enough rope, to allow a person complete freedom to continue his or her misdeeds in hope that retribution will follow.
  3. on the ropes,
    1. a defenseless position, as leaning against the ropes to keep from falling.
    2. a desperate or hopeless position; close to defeat or failure: By repeatedly undercutting his prices, his competitors soon had him on the ropes.

Origin of rope before 900; (noun) Middle English rop(e), rap(e), Old English rāp; cognate with Dutch reep, German Reif; (v.) Middle English, derivative of the nounRelated formsrop·er, nounrope·like, adjectiveun·roped, adjective British Dictionary definitions for at the end of one’s rope rope noun

    1. a fairly thick cord made of twisted and intertwined hemp or other fibres or of wire or other strong material
    2. (as modifier)a rope bridge; a rope ladder
  1. a row of objects fastened or united to form a linea rope of pearls; a rope of onions
  2. a quantity of material twisted or wound in the form of a cord
  3. anything in the form of a filament or strand, esp something viscous or glutinousa rope of slime
  4. the rope
    1. a rope, noose, or halter used for hanging
    2. death by hanging, strangling, etc
  5. give someone enough rope to hang himself to allow someone to accomplish his own downfall by his own foolish acts
  6. know the ropes
    1. to have a thorough understanding of a particular sphere of activity
    2. to be experienced in the ways of the world
  7. on the ropes
    1. boxingdriven against the ropes enclosing the ring by an opponent’s attack
    2. in a defenceless or hopeless position


  1. (tr) to bind or fasten with or as if with a rope
  2. (tr usually foll by off) to enclose or divide by means of a rope
  3. (intr) to become extended in a long filament or thread
  4. (when intr , foll by up) mountaineering to tie (climbers) together with a rope

See also rope in Word Origin for rope Old English rāp; related to Old Saxon rēp, Old High German reif Word Origin and History for at the end of one’s rope rope n.

Old English rap “rope, cord, cable,” from Proto-Germanic *raipaz (cf. Old Norse reip, West Frisian reap, Middle Dutch, Dutch reep “rope,” Old Frisian silrap “shoe-thong,” Gothic skauda-raip “shoe-lace,” Old High German, German reif “ring, hoop”). Technically, only cordage above one inch in circumference and below 10 (bigger-around than that is a cable). Nautical use varies. Finnish raippa “hoop, rope, twig” is a Germanic loan-word.

To know the ropes (1840, Dana) originally is a seaman’s term. Phrase on the ropes “defeated” is attested from 1924, a figurative extension from the fight ring, where ropes figure from 1829. To be at the end of (one’s) rope “out of resources and options” is first attested 1680s. Formerly also in many slang and extended uses related to punishment by hanging, e.g. John Roper’s window “a noose,” rope-ripe “deserving to be hanged,” both 16c. To give someone (enough) rope (to hang himself) is from 1650s.

rope v.

c.1300, “bind with a rope,” from rope (n.). Meaning “mark off with rope” is from 1738; to rope (someone or something) in is from 1848. Related: Roped; roping.

Idioms and Phrases with at the end of one’s rope at the end of one’s rope

see end of one’s rope.


In addition to the idiom beginning with rope

  • rope in
  • also see:

  • end of one’s rope
  • enough rope
  • (show someone) know the ropes
  • on the ropes
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