up against the wall

up against the wall


  1. any of various permanent upright constructions having a length much greater than the thickness and presenting a continuous surface except where pierced by doors, windows, etc.: used for shelter, protection, or privacy, or to subdivide interior space, to support floors, roofs, or the like, to retain earth, to fence in an area, etc.
  2. Usually walls. a rampart raised for defensive purposes.
  3. an immaterial or intangible barrier, obstruction, etc., suggesting a wall: a wall of prejudice.
  4. a wall-like, enclosing part, thing, mass, etc.: a wall of fire; a wall of troops.
  5. an embankment to prevent flooding, as a levee or sea wall.
  6. the outermost film or layer of structural material protecting, surrounding, and defining the physical limits of an object: the wall of a blood cell.
  7. Soccer. a line of defenders standing shoulder to shoulder in an attempt to block a free kick with their bodies.
  8. Mining.
    1. the side of a level or drift.
    2. the overhanging or underlying side of a vein; a hanging wall or footwall.


  1. of or relating to a wall: wall space.
  2. growing against or on a wall: wall plants; wall cress.
  3. situated, placed, or installed in or on a wall: wall oven; a wall safe.

verb (used with object)

  1. to enclose, shut off, divide, protect, border, etc., with or as if with a wall (often followed by in or off): to wall the yard; to wall in the play area; He is walled in by lack of opportunity.
  2. to seal or fill (a doorway or other opening) with a wall: to wall an unused entrance.
  3. to seal or entomb (something or someone) within a wall (usually followed by up): The workmen had walled up the cat quite by mistake.


  1. climb (the) walls, Slang. to become tense or frantic: climbing the walls with boredom.
  2. drive/push to the wall, to force into a desperate situation; humiliate or ruin completely: Not content with merely winning the match, they used every opportunity to push the inferior team to the wall.
  3. go over the wall, Slang. to break out of prison: Roadblocks have been set up in an effort to capture several convicts who went over the wall.
  4. go to the wall,
    1. to be defeated in a conflict or competition; yield.
    2. to fail in business, especially to become bankrupt.
    3. to be put aside or forgotten.
    4. to take an extreme and determined position or measure: I’d go to the wall to stop him from resigning.
  5. hit the wall, (of long-distance runners) to reach a point in a race, usually after 20 miles, when the body’s fuels are virtually depleted and willpower becomes crucial to be able to finish.
  6. off the wall, Slang.
    1. beyond the realm of acceptability or reasonableness: The figure you quoted for doing the work is off the wall.
    2. markedly out of the ordinary; eccentric; bizarre: Some of the clothes in the fashion show were too off the wall for the average customer.
  7. up against the wall,
    1. placed against a wall to be executed by a firing squad.
    2. in a crucial or critical position, especially one in which defeat or failure seems imminent: Unless sales improve next month, the company will be up against the wall.
  8. up the wall, Slang. into an acutely frantic, frustrated, or irritated state: The constant tension in the office is driving everyone up the wall.


    1. a vertical construction made of stone, brick, wood, etc, with a length and height much greater than its thickness, used to enclose, divide, or support
    2. (as modifier)wall hangings Related adjective: mural
  1. (often plural) a structure or rampart built to protect and surround a position or place for defensive purposes
  2. anatomy any lining, membrane, or investing part that encloses or bounds a bodily cavity or structureabdominal wall Technical name: paries Related adjective: parietal
  3. mountaineering a vertical or almost vertical smooth rock face
  4. anything that suggests a wall in function or effecta wall of fire; a wall of prejudice
  5. bang one’s head against a brick wall to try to achieve something impossible
  6. drive to the wall or push to the wall to force into an awkward situation
  7. go to the wall to be ruined; collapse financially
  8. drive up the wall slang to cause to become crazy or furious
  9. go up the wall slang to become crazy or furious
  10. have one’s back to the wall to be in a very difficult situation
  11. See off-the-wall
  12. See wall-to-wall

verb (tr)

  1. to protect, provide, or confine with or as if with a wall
  2. (often foll by up) to block (an opening) with a wall
  3. (often foll by in or up) to seal by or within a wall or walls

v.“to enclose in a wall,” late Old English *weallian, from the source of wall (n.). Related: Walled; walling. n.Old English weall “rampart” (natural as well as man-made), also “defensive fortification around a city, side of a building, interior partition,” an Anglo-Frisian and Saxon borrowing (cf. Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Middle Low German, Middle Dutch wal) from Latin vallum “wall, rampart, row or line of stakes,” apparently a collective form of vallus “stake.” Swedish vall, Danish val are from Low German. In this case, English uses one word where many languages have two, e.g. German Mauer “outer wall of a town, fortress, etc.,” used also in reference to the former Berlin Wall, and wand “partition wall within a building” (cf. the distinction, not always rigorously kept, in Italian muro/parete, Irish mur/fraig, Lithuanian muras/siena, etc.). Phrase up the wall “angry, crazy” is from 1951; off the wall “unorthodox, unconventional” is recorded from 1966, American English student slang. Wall-to-wall (adj.) recorded 1953, of carpeting; metaphoric use (usually disparaging) is from 1967. n.

  1. An investing part enclosing a cavity, chamber, or other anatomical unit.

In addition to the idioms beginning with wall

  • walls have ears, the
  • also see:

  • back to the wall
  • beat one’s head against the wall
  • between you and me and the lamppost (four walls)
  • climb the walls
  • drive someone crazy (up the wall)
  • fly on the wall
  • go to the wall
  • handwriting on the wall
  • hole in the wall
  • off the wall
  • run into a stone wall
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