What Does High And Dry Mean?

To Leave Someone High and Dry Meaning

Definition: Abandoned and without help.

This idiom is often used with the verb leave, as in he left me high and dry.

Origin of High and Dry

This expression originated in the 1700s and referenced ships that became stuck on high ground during low tide.

Over time, this expression began to be used to refer to anyone or anything that was stranded or stuck in a bad situation.

If you friend leaves you at the bar without a ride home, he has left you high and dry. Now, you need to call another friend who will pick you up or take a cab.

Examples of High and Dry

Leave high and dryThis idiom is often used in personal conflicts, as it is below,

Scott: Hey, Tony. I have a favor to ask of you.

Tony: What is it?

Scott: So, you know how someone has been stealing my lunch for weeks now? Well, I finally figured out how to stop it. I just need your help.

Tony: I’m not sure I want to get involved.

Scott: You barely have to do anything. Just hear my plan.

Tony: Okay, go ahead.

Scott: I want you to hide in the break room closet over the lunch break and watch the fridge.

Tony: No way!

Scott: Come on! Everyone else will see me leave, and they won’t know you’re in there waiting. You’ll see who steals it, and then I’ll have my proof!

Tony: Absolutely not.

Scott: Don’t leave me high and dry. If you don’t help me, I won’t be able to eat lunch ever again!

To be left high and dryThe expression is used again in the below conversation about bullies.

Richard: So I just got back from a meeting with the school principal.

Miranda: Did you tell them about your son getting bullied?

Richard: Yeah, I did, but I feel as if the school is leaving us high and dry. They didn’t offer any useful solutions.

Miranda: They aren’t going to help at all?

Richard: They said there’s nothing they can do without proof of the bullying.

More Examples

Our idiom is used in this newspaper excerpt to explain that some casinos will serve alcohol for free to some gamblers but will leave others stuck with no free drinks.

  • Time was Las Vegas casinos served free booze so you would stay and gamble — and maybe loosen up enough to play even more. Now a few big casino companies are shifting gears by rewarding certain gamblers and leaving others high and dry. –LA Times

In the second example, the idiom is used to explain that residents of a town will be left without drinkable water due to bad storms.

  • Relentless rains pounding the tiny Eastern Plains town of Iliff — population 250 — have left its residents high and dry. Sinks and toilets stopped running eight days ago in the Logan County municipality, when a water main running beneath the nearby South Platte River, swollen by weeks of torrential storms, ruptured. –Denver Post


The phrase high and dry is used as an adjective to describe anyone who was left in an unfortunate situation.