take the wind out of one's sails

take the wind out of one's sails


  1. air in natural motion, as that moving horizontally at any velocity along the earth’s surface: A gentle wind blew through the valley. High winds were forecast.
  2. a gale; storm; hurricane.
  3. any stream of air, as that produced by a bellows or fan.
  4. air that is blown or forced to produce a musical sound in singing or playing an instrument.
  5. wind instrument.
  6. wind instruments collectively.
  7. the winds, the members of an orchestra or band who play the wind instruments.
  8. breath or breathing: to catch one’s wind.
  9. the power of breathing freely, as during continued exertion.
  10. any influential force or trend: strong winds of public opinion.
  11. a hint or intimation: to catch wind of a stock split.
  12. air carrying an animal’s odor or scent.
  13. solar wind.
  14. empty talk; mere words.
  15. vanity; conceitedness.
  16. gas generated in the stomach and intestines.
  17. Boxing Slang. the pit of the stomach where a blow may cause a temporary shortness of breath; solar plexus.
  18. any direction of the compass.
  19. a state of unconcern, recklessness, or abandon: to throw all caution to the winds.

verb (used with object)

  1. to expose to wind or air.
  2. to follow by the scent.
  3. to make short of wind or breath, as by vigorous exercise.
  4. to let recover breath, as by resting after exertion.

verb (used without object)

  1. to catch the scent or odor of game.


  1. between wind and water,
    1. (of a ship) at or near the water line.
    2. in a vulnerable or precarious spot: In her profession one is always between wind and water.
  2. break wind, to expel gas from the stomach and bowels through the anus.
  3. how the wind blows/lies, what the tendency or probability is: Try to find out how the wind blows.Also which way the wind blows.
  4. in the teeth of the wind, sailing directly into the wind; against the wind.Also in the eye of the wind, in the wind’s eye.
  5. in the wind, about to occur; imminent; impending: There’s good news in the wind.
  6. off the wind,
    1. away from the wind; with the wind at one’s back.
    2. (of a sailing vessel) headed into the wind with sails shaking or aback.
  7. on the wind, as close as possible to the wind.Also on a wind.
  8. sail close to the wind,
    1. Also sail close on a wind.to sail as nearly as possible in the direction from which the wind is blowing.
    2. to practice economy in the management of one’s affairs.
    3. to verge on a breach of propriety or decency.
    4. to escape (punishment, detection, etc.) by a narrow margin; take a risk.
  9. take the wind out of one’s sails, to surprise someone, especially with unpleasant news; stun; shock; flabbergast: She took the wind out of his sails when she announced she was marrying someone else.


  1. a current of air, sometimes of considerable force, moving generally horizontally from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressureSee also Beaufort scale Related adjective: aeolian
  2. mainly poetic the direction from which a wind blows, usually a cardinal point of the compass
  3. air artificially moved, as by a fan, pump, etc
  4. any sweeping and destructive force
  5. a trend, tendency, or forcethe winds of revolution
  6. informal a hint; suggestionwe got wind that you were coming
  7. something deemed insubstantialhis talk was all wind
  8. breath, as used in respiration or talkyou’re just wasting wind
  9. (often used in sports) the power to breathe normallyhis wind is weak See also second wind
  10. music
    1. a wind instrument or wind instruments considered collectively
    2. (often plural)the musicians who play wind instruments in an orchestra
    3. (modifier)of, relating to, or composed of wind instrumentsa wind ensemble
  11. an informal name for flatus
  12. the air on which the scent of an animal is carried to hounds or on which the scent of a hunter is carried to his quarry
  13. between wind and water
    1. the part of a vessel’s hull below the water line that is exposed by rolling or by wave action
    2. any point particularly susceptible to attack or injury
  14. break wind to release intestinal gas through the anus
  15. get the wind up or have the wind up informal to become frightened
  16. have in the wind to be in the act of following (quarry) by scent
  17. how the wind blows, how the wind lies, which way the wind blows or which way the wind lies what appears probable
  18. in the wind about to happen
  19. three sheets in the wind informal intoxicated; drunk
  20. in the teeth of the wind or in the eye of the wind directly into the wind
  21. into the wind against the wind or upwind
  22. off the wind nautical away from the direction from which the wind is blowing
  23. on the wind nautical as near as possible to the direction from which the wind is blowing
  24. put the wind up informal to frighten or alarm
  25. raise the wind British informal to obtain the necessary funds
  26. sail close to the wind or sail near to the wind
    1. to come near the limits of danger or indecency
    2. to live frugally or manage one’s affairs economically
  27. take the wind out of someone’s sails to destroy someone’s advantage; disconcert or deflate

verb (tr)

  1. to cause (someone) to be short of breaththe blow winded him
    1. to detect the scent of
    2. to pursue (quarry) by following its scent
  2. to cause (a baby) to bring up wind after feeding by patting or rubbing on the back
  3. to expose to air, as in drying, ventilating, etc

verb winds, winding or wound

  1. (often foll by around, about, or upon) to turn or coil (string, cotton, etc) around some object or point or (of string, etc) to be turned etc, around some object or pointhe wound a scarf around his head
  2. (tr) to twine, cover, or wreathe by or as if by coiling, wrapping, etc; encirclewe wound the body in a shroud
  3. (tr often foll by up) to tighten the spring of (a clockwork mechanism)
  4. (tr foll by off) to remove by uncoiling or unwinding
  5. (usually intr) to move or cause to move in a sinuous, spiral, or circular coursethe river winds through the hills
  6. (tr) to introduce indirectly or deviouslyhe is winding his own opinions into the report
  7. (tr) to cause to twist or revolvehe wound the handle
  8. (tr; usually foll by up or down) to move by crankingplease wind up the window
  9. (tr) to haul, lift, or hoist (a weight, etc) by means of a wind or windlass
  10. (intr) (of a board, etc) to be warped or twisted
  11. (intr) archaic to proceed deviously or indirectly


  1. the act of winding or state of being wound
  2. a single turn, bend, etca wind in the river
  3. Also called: winding a twist in a board or plank

verb winds, winding, winded or wound

  1. (tr) poetic to blow (a note or signal) on (a horn, bugle, etc)

n.1“air in motion,” Old English wind, from Proto-Germanic *wendas (cf. Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Middle Dutch, Dutch wind, Old Norse vindr, Old High German wind, German Wind, Gothic winds), from PIE *we-nt-o- “blowing,” from root *we- “to blow” (cf. Sanskrit va-, Greek aemi-, Gothic waian, Old English wawan, Old High German wajan, German wehen, Old Church Slavonic vejati “to blow;” Sanskrit vatah, Avestan vata-, Hittite huwantis, Latin ventus, Old Church Slavonic vetru, Lithuanian vejas “wind;” Lithuanian vetra “tempest, storm;” Old Irish feth “air;” Welsh gwynt, Breton gwent “wind”). Normal pronunciation evolution made this word rhyme with kind and rind (Donne rhymes it with mind), but it shifted to a short vowel 18c., probably from influence of windy, where the short vowel is natural. A sad loss for poets, who now must rhyme it only with sinned and a handful of weak words. Symbolic of emptiness and vanity since late 13c. I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind. [Ernest Dowson, 1896] Meaning “breath” is attested from late Old English; especially “breath in speaking” (early 14c.), so long-winded, also “easy or regular breathing” (early 14c.), hence second wind in the figurative sense (by 1830), an image from the sport of hunting. Figurative phrase which way the wind blows for “the current state of affairs” is suggested from c.1400. To get wind of “receive information about” is by 1809, perhaps inspired by French avoir le vent de. To take the wind out of (one’s) sails in the figurative sense (by 1883) is an image from sailing, where a ship without wind can make no progress. Wind-chill index is recorded from 1939. Wind energy from 1976. Wind vane from 1725. v.1“move by turning and twisting,” Old English windan “to turn, twist, wind” (class III strong verb; past tense wand, past participle wunden), from Proto-Germanic *wendanan (cf. Old Saxon windan, Old Norse vinda, Old Frisian winda, Dutch winden, Old High German wintan, German winden, Gothic windan “to wind”), from PIE *wendh- “to turn, wind, weave” (cf. Latin viere “twist, plait, weave,” vincire “bind;” Lithuanian vyti “twist, wind”). Related to wend, which is its causative form, and to wander. Wind down “come to a conclusion” is recorded from 1952; wind up “come to a conclusion” is from 1825. Winding sheet “shroud of a corpse” is attested from early 15c. v.2“to perceive by scent, get wind of,” early 15c., from wind (n.1). Of horns, etc., “make sound by blowing through,” from 1580s. Meaning “tire, put out of breath; render temporarily breathless by a blow or punch” is from 1811, originally in pugilism. Related: Winded; winding. n.2“an act of winding round,” 1825, from wind (v.1) . Earlier, “an apparatus for winding,” late 14c., in which use perhaps from a North Sea Germanic word, e.g. Middle Dutch, Middle Low German winde “windlass.”

  1. A current of air, especially a natural one that moves along or parallel to the ground, moving from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure. Surface wind is measured by anemometers or its effect on objects, such as trees. The large-scale pattern of winds on Earth is governed primarily by differences in the net solar radiation received at the Earth’s surface, but it is also influenced by the Earth’s rotation, by the distribution of continents and oceans, by ocean currents, and by topography. On a local scale, the differences in rate of heating and cooling of land versus bodies of water greatly affect wind formation. Prevailing global winds are classified into three major belts in the Northern Hemisphere and three corresponding belts in the Southern Hemisphere. The trade winds blow generally east to west toward a low-pressure zone at the equator throughout the region from 30° north to 30° south of the equator. The westerlies blow from west to east in the temperate mid-latitude regions (from 30° to 60° north and south of the equator), and the polar easterlies blow from east to west out of high-pressure areas in the polar regions. See also Beaufort scale chinook foehn monsoon Santa Ana.

Hamper or stop one, put one at a disadvantage, as in When they announced they were doing the same study as ours, it took the wind out of our sails, or The applause for the concertmaster took the wind out of the conductor’s sails. This expression alludes to sailing to windward of another ship, thereby robbing it of wind for its sails. [Early 1800s] In addition to the idioms beginning with wind

  • wind down
  • wind up
  • also see:

  • before the wind
  • break wind
  • get wind of
  • gone with the wind
  • ill wind
  • in the wind
  • like greased lightning (the wind)
  • sail close to the wind
  • second wind
  • something in the wind
  • straw in the wind
  • take the wind out of one’s sails
  • three sheets to the wind
  • throw caution to the winds
  • twist in the wind
  • way the wind blows
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