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a strong, thick line or cord, commonly one composed of twisted or braided strands of hemp, flax, or the like, or of wire or other material.
a lasso.

the cords used to enclose a prize ring or other space.
Informal. the operations of a business or the details of any undertaking:
The new employee didn’t take long to learn the ropes.

a hangman’s noose, halter, or cord.
the sentence or punishment of death by hanging.
a quantity of material or a number of things twisted or strung together in the form of a cord:
a rope of tobacco.
a stringy, viscid, or glutinous formation in a liquid:
ropes of slime.
to tie, bind, or fasten with a rope.
to enclose, partition, or mark off with a rope or ropes (often followed by off).
to catch with a lasso; lasso.
Nautical. to reinforce (a sail or awning) with a .
to be drawn out into a filament of thread; become .
rope in, Informal. to lure or entice, especially by employing deception:
The swindler had roped in a number of gullible persons.
at the end of one’s rope, at the end of one’s endurance or means; at the limit:
With all her savings gone and bills piling up, she was at the end of her rope.
give someone enough rope, to allow a person complete freedom to continue his or her misdeeds in hope that retribution will follow.
on the ropes,

Boxing. in a defenseless position, as leaning against the ropes to keep from falling.
Informal. in a desperate or hopeless position; close to defeat or failure:
By repeatedly undercutting his prices, his competitors soon had him on the ropes.

Contemporary Examples

Later I discovered that United gave its spokesmen plenty of rope so they could go and hang themselves in the media.
The National-Security Diaper Scramble Philip Shishkin April 24, 2013

They even put out a video of fighters from the two camps engaged in robust tug of war with a rope to show they are not enemies.
Al Qaeda’s Most Dangerous Stronghold Bruce Riedel November 10, 2013

“I like decorating my slaves,” she said, referencing the rope, her thin, crimson-coated lips peeling off her front teeth.
Dungeons and Genital Clamps: Inside a Legendary BDSM Chateau Ian Frisch December 19, 2014

Northup was left bound tightly, with a rope around his neck, under the blazing sun for an entire day.
The ‘12 Years a Slave’ Book Shows Slavery As Even More Appalling Than In the Film Jimmy So October 17, 2013

I sense Obama has just reached the end of his rope on this one.
Obamacare, Impeachment, Iran, and More Political Predictions for 2014 Michael Tomasky December 29, 2013

Historical Examples

“rope him, and put a saddle on him and bust him,” they called resoundingly.
The Eagle’s Heart Hamlin Garland

Ignacio, you are near the end of your rope, and you may as well prepare for your fate.
A Prisoner of Morro Upton Sinclair

Chuck the man a rope’s-end and he’ll haul the raft alongside.’
My Danish Sweetheart., Volume 1 of 3 William Clark Russell

I felt the rope cutting my waist as Sim jerked and tugged at it with all his strength.
Down The River Oliver Optic

Bring me that rope off them pile of boxes while I make him fast.
The Boy Aviators’ Flight for a Fortune Wilbur Lawton


a fairly thick cord made of twisted and intertwined hemp or other fibres or of wire or other strong material
(as modifier): a rope bridge, a rope ladder

a row of objects fastened or united to form a line: a rope of pearls, a rope of onions
a quantity of material twisted or wound in the form of a cord
anything in the form of a filament or strand, esp something viscous or glutinous: a rope of slime
the rope

a rope, noose, or halter used for hanging
death by hanging, strangling, etc

give someone enough rope to hang himself, to allow someone to accomplish his own downfall by his own foolish acts
know the ropes

to have a thorough understanding of a particular sphere of activity
to be experienced in the ways of the world

on the ropes

(boxing) driven against the ropes enclosing the ring by an opponent’s attack
in a defenceless or hopeless position

(transitive) to bind or fasten with or as if with a rope
(transitive) usually foll by off. to enclose or divide by means of a rope
(intransitive) to become extended in a long filament or thread
(mountaineering) when intr, foll by up. to tie (climbers) together with a rope

Old English rap “rope, cord, cable,” from Proto-Germanic *raipaz (cf. Old Norse reip, West Frisian reap, Middle Dutch, Dutch reep “rope,” Old Frisian silrap “shoe-thong,” Gothic skauda-raip “shoe-lace,” Old High German, German reif “ring, hoop”). Technically, only cordage above one inch in circumference and below 10 (bigger-around than that is a cable). Nautical use varies. Finnish raippa “hoop, rope, twig” is a Germanic loan-word.

To know the ropes (1840, Dana) originally is a seaman’s term. Phrase on the ropes “defeated” is attested from 1924, a figurative extension from the fight ring, where ropes figure from 1829. To be at the end of (one’s) rope “out of resources and options” is first attested 1680s. Formerly also in many slang and extended uses related to punishment by hanging, e.g. John Roper’s window “a noose,” rope-ripe “deserving to be hanged,” both 16c. To give someone (enough) rope (to hang himself) is from 1650s.

c.1300, “bind with a rope,” from rope (n.). Meaning “mark off with rope” is from 1738; to rope (someone or something) in is from 1848. Related: Roped; roping.


A cigar; el ropo, hemp (1934+)
A hard-hit line drive; clothesline, frozen rope (1960s+ Baseball)


(also rope in) To ensnare someone with amity and concern as a means of swindling; rope in (1848+)
: Surhoff roped an RBI double to the gap in left-center

Related Terms

goat fuck, go piss up a rope, know the ropes, suck
In addition to the idiom beginning with
also see:

end of one’s rope
enough rope
(show someone) know the ropes
on the ropes


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