What Does Caught in the Crossfire Mean?

Caught in the Crossfire Meaning

Definition: Trapped between two lines of enemy fire (literal); Trapped between two opposing or arguing sides (figurative).

To be caught in the crossfire is to be uncomfortably positioned between two opposing sides. In its literal sense, this could refer to crossfire guns and other weaponry. In its figurative sense, this could also refer to emotional damage dealt by something like an argument.

Being caught in the crossfire means that you are hurt somehow by being between the two sides. It is more than simple discomfort. You are actually in pain or suffering a loss as a result of being between two sides.

Origin of Caught in the Crossfire

People caught in crossfireThis phrase comes from the use of guns. Although there is no certain origin time for this phrase, it is possible that it dates all the way back to the first uses of guns, or even perhaps as far back as the first uses of archery.

People who are caught in the crossfire of guns are innocents who are shot by mistake. Likewise, using the phrase “caught in the crossfire” figuratively refers to people who are hurt unintentionally by two opposing sides.

Examples of Caught in the Crossfire

Caught crossfireYoung kids may complain that they feel caught in the crossfire when their parents argue with each other. They may be hurt unintentionally by their parents’ disagreements.

If two people have parties on the same day and refuse to change their schedules but both invite the same guests, the guests might feel caught in the crossfire. They have been brought into a situation in which they are mentally stressed trying to please both parties.

Often the phrase is used to describe tense political situations. People living in warring countries can feel as if they are caught in the crossfire between their political leaders. They don’t want to upset either side or deal with political fallout.

More Examples

  • As the world watches with growing concern the escalating tensions in the Middle East, Texans have found themselves caught in the crossfire. –Houston Chronicle
  • The maker of Eggo waffles and Pop-Tarts is only the latest American corporation caught in the crossfire.Washington Post


Innocents caught in the crossfire are harmed by others’ fighting.