What Does Gone to Pot Mean?

Gone to Pot Meaning

Definition: To become totally messed up or destroyed; completely ruined.

Origin of Gone to Pot

Most sources agree that this idiom relates to a cooking pot, and it first appeared sometime around the 1500s, despite its modern sound. An early use of it can be found in John Heywood’s 1546 proverb collection:

  • The weaker goeth to the potte.

The meaning here alludes to the weak being cut into pieces like stew meat for the pot.

However, sources disagree on the exact details of the phrase.

Some sources speculate that it refers to the fact that after an animal dies, it gets cooked in a pot. In this case, the animal is destroyed or ruined because it is dead.

Other sources state that the best meat was prepared in various ways. However, only the worst meat was cooked in a pot. For example, only very old, tough, or undesirable cuts of meat that were unfit for other consumption were thrown into a stew and cooked in a pot.

Nowadays, some people use this expression in reference to marijuana, and assume that the idiom came from the drug. However, this is not the case, since the idiom existed long before marijuana was common amongst English speakers.

Examples of Gone to Pot

define gone to pot In the example below, two siblings are at a high-school reunion.

Jordan: Everyone here is so successful.

James: So what?

Jordan: I’m embarrassed to be here. My life has completely gone to pot. I feel worthless next to all my former classmates who have made something with their lives.

James: Don’t be so hard on yourself. Your life isn’t so bad.

Jordan: I’m unemployed, single, and have no friends.

James: Well, that’s true. Your life isn’t that great, but you could always fix those things.

going to pot In the second dialogue, two coworkers are complaining about their work.

Job: This job used to be great. Remember back when we had free coffee whenever we wanted it and all our coworkers were fun and easy to work with?

Melissa: I know. We used to have great hours as well.

Job: Now I feel like I’m working in a jail or a dungeon. This job has really gone to pot. Unless they completely change the management team, I think this business will fail.

More Examples

This excerpt uses the expression in a bit of word play. Here, the idiom relates to the ruined state of an old factory as well as its planned use as a dispensary of medical marijuana.

  • An abandoned factory that’s gone to pot could be the site of a wellness center with a medical marijuana dispensary. –Times Leader

The second quote uses the same play on words. The speaker means to say he is disappointed that pot is now legal in Colorado, and that because of the new laws he thinks Colorado is doomed.

  • “Colorado now allows the sale of pot and that means the whole state has gone to pot,” Martinez added. –Denver Post


The expression gone to pot means fallen into a horrible state.