three sheets to the wind love

three sheets to the wind


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective idiomatic Drunk.


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Derived from sailing ships. The 'sheet' in the phrase uses the nautical meaning of a rope that controls the trim of sail. If a sheet is loose, the sail flaps and doesn't provide control for the ship. Having several sheets loose ("to the wind") could cause the ship to rock about drunkenly. Before settling on the standard usage of "three sheets", a scale used to be employed to rate the drunkenness of a person, with "one sheet" meaning slightly inebriated, and "four sheets" meaning unconscious. A better description relates this phrase to a square rigged ship sailing on the wind, on a bowline as they say. With the three windward sheets hauled all the way forward, in or to the wind, the ship will stagger like a drunken sailor as she meets the waves at an angle of 60 degrees to the beam. For loose sheets to have this effect there would have to be six loose sheets, three to windward and three to leeward. Also, unless all the upper sails secured to the yards were also loosed having the course sheets loose would not produce any change in a ship's motion except to reduce its forward speed a bit.


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  • Drunk.

    "He seldom went up to the town without coming down 'three sheets in the wind'."

    --Richard Dana, Two Years Before the Mast, 1840

    September 15, 2007

  • This is a good idiom.

    September 18, 2007

  • On a small boat, the main sheet controls the mainsail and two other sheets control the headsail: the windward sheet and the leeward sheet. When the sheets are flying with the wind, you do not have control of the boat--hence, a person who's been indulging and has lost self-control is described as three sheets to the wind.

    November 30, 2007

  • "Wolf replenished his glass at the request of Mr. Blust, who, instead of being one sheet in the wind, was likely to get to three before he took his departure." - 'The Fisher's Daughter', Catherine Ward, 1824.

    December 2, 2007

  • Nice excerpt--thanks, bilby!

    December 3, 2007