What Does Bottom Out Mean?

Bottom Out Meaning

Definition: To reach the lowest or worst point.

The phrase bottom out functions as a verb. It can describe both things and people reaching the “bottom” of a situation. When something bottoms out, it has reached the worst point possible, and things can only get better from that point.

Interestingly, while this is the commonly accepted English meaning, this phrase has an entirely separate meaning in slang from the United Kingdom. There, bottom out means to back out of something or to act wimpy.

Origin of Bottom Out

bottoming out definitionThis expression is a variation of a longer, widely used phrase: hitting rock bottom. When someone hits rock bottom, he or she has gotten into a bad situation that has increasingly become worse until reaching a point of total desperation. This person has hit rock bottom.

Hitting rock bottom refers to the bottom of the ocean, the lowest point on Earth. The situation has become so bad that things can only go up from there.

The phrase to bottom out indicates the same phenomenon. Things have reached the bottom, or the lowest point, and can only go up and get better.

Examples of Bottom Out

what is bottoming outThe phrase to bottom out is often used to describe addictions. When an addict has reached a point of total dependency on a drug and cannot function regularly in a job or a family, that addict has bottomed out. His addiction cannot get any more consuming, and he must seek treatment to get better.

The weather also bottoms out. During a thunderstorm, the weather may suddenly become especially intense and terrible, with thunder booming and wind preventing people from going outside. The sky has bottomed out at that point.

People who tell lies to try to keep a false story going will also bottom out. Eventually, they will not be able to maintain their lies, and they will have to tell the truth.

Lastly, cars and bikes—specifically the shocks on such vehicles—can bottom out. When the shock of a car is fully compressed, it is said to have bottomed out.

More Examples

  • [About becoming homeless] “…Just, like, another day. I hated it there [at my childhood home] too,” she says. “So everything goes full circle. You sort of bottom out. There is no reaction. You go through the motions. If you think about it, you will go to the top of the tree.” – New York Post
  • Fisher should get another year if the Rams don’t completely bottom out. – LA Times


The English phrase to bottom out is to reach rock bottom, or the lowest point.