What Does Go Over Like a Lead Balloon Mean?

To Go Over Like a Lead Balloon Meaning

Definition: An idea or an attempt that is a total failure with no support from others.

The American version of the phrase is go over like a lead balloon. The British version of the phrase is go down like a lead balloon.

Origin of Go Over/Go Down Like a Lead Balloon

Imagine if a balloon were actually made of lead. It wouldn’t be able to fly at all. This imagery is what people imagine when using this expression.

This idiom first appeared in an American cartoon strip in 1924. It took several years to the phrase to catch on, as it wasn’t seen again in print until after World War II.

Over the years, the expression has become quite popular, helped out, of course, by the popular rock back Led Zeppelin.

Examples of Go Over/Go Down Like a Lead Balloon

went down like a lead balloon alternatives In the first example, two employees are talking together on their lunch break.

Marcus: I made a fool of myself in a meeting today.

Patsy: How so?

Marcus: I pitched an idea for a new product that our company could sell.

Patsy: And the other people didn’t like it?

Marcus: They didn’t like it at all. The whole idea went over like a lead balloon. The boss scoffed when he heard it, and the other employees actually laughed at me.

Patsy: I’m sorry to hear that! Next time you’ll have a better idea. I’m sure of it!

lead balloon meaning In the second example, a brother is trying to convince his sister that they should go scuba diving.

Samson: Angela, I have a great idea! I got two coupons for free scuba diving lessons. Let’s go together! You’re always saying that we don’t spend enough time together.

Angela: That’s a terrible idea.

Samson: Why do you say that?

Angela: You know that I can’t swim! Also, I’m terrified of water. Do you remember that time I almost drowned when I was a child?

Samson: Ugh. You’re always like this. Every time I try to suggest something fun, it goes over like a lead balloon with you. You hate having fun.

Angela: That’s not true. You just don’t think about my feelings when you make these suggestions.

More Examples

This excerpt is from an advice column. A woman with a grouchy father wants to throw him a party, but her family doesn’t like that idea at all.

  • I make an effort to see the good in my father and I know aging isn’t easy for anybody. But younger relatives have no patience for him and every time I suggest a party for him, it goes over like a lead balloon. I understand he is difficult and prone to outbursts, but the man is 90 and I still think he deserves our respect. Where do I go from here? –Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

This excerpt is a quote from a doctor about a Drug Enforcement Agency official. The DEA agent wanted to educated the doctors about how to be compliant with drug laws, and the doctors gave him a hostile reception.

  • “He was lumping all of the NFL doctors with the pain factory doctors,” a second team doctor told the newspaper. “… The whole thing went over like a lead balloon.” –USA Today


The idiom to go over like a lead balloon means a concept is wildly unpopular or an effort to do something was wildly unsuccessful.