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What's the meaning of go down?

Little did anyone know, the 47-year-old Silicon Valley executive was actually engaged in a giant scam...He was finally caught by Target security on May 8, and he was arraigned on Tuesday on four counts of burglary.

sad pathetic way to go down.

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closed as general reference by tchrist, Lynn, J.R., simchona, Clark Kent May 26 '12 at 16:32

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

What did the dictionary say? – tchrist May 24 '12 at 23:45
There are over 15 definitions for it and the closest one is "to happen", but I wasn't sure if that was it. – Theo May 25 '12 at 0:00
This particular one means to "go down in flames", like a fighter plane shot down. It refers (metaphorically, of course) to being caught and prosecuted and convicted and going to prison. Being "brought down" to disgrace and shame is the same metaphor. UP is GOOD/DOWN is BAD; it's a basic metaphor. – John Lawler May 25 '12 at 0:26
@Theo: that nugget of research ("15 defs, and the closest is...") is best put into the question, when you ask the question. More often than not, when what seems to be a rather simple question is accompanied by such crucial inforamtion (namely, "I looked it up - here's what I found - here's why I'm still confused"), the question is welcomed. When such info is omitted, though, it is often quickly downvoted as close votes accumulate – and rightfully so, in my mind. Reread your question as if you are seeing it for the first time – doesn't it make you wonder, "Doesn't he have a dictionary?" – J.R. May 25 '12 at 9:26
@JohnLawler: Theo likes your comment, and would like to select it as an answer, but, alas, it needs to be promoted to answer status first. Care to oblige him? He's hoping you get this message. – J.R. May 25 '12 at 19:48
up vote 3 down vote accepted

(by request)

This particular sense of go down means to "go down in flames", like a fighter plane shot down.

It refers (metaphorically, of course) to being caught and prosecuted and convicted and going to prison. Being brought down to disgrace and shame is the same metaphor.


It's one of our basic metaphors, because humans are oriented in a gravitational field, and most metaphors are ultimately projections of the human body.

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Merriam Webster sense 5a: to undergo defeat or failure.

enter image description here

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Holy crap! MW is full of spamverts, and superannoying bouncy crap, too. How can anyone in good faith recommend such a trashy site? I used to think it was just of low quality because of its limited definitions, its extremely few examples, and its utterly bogus phoney-etics, but this extreme trashiness in their whole very unappealing presentation is really embarrassing, nearly to the point of being offensive. MW goes on worse than my boycott list. It goes on my banned list as actually harmful. If I want viagra spam or its moral equivalent, I know where to go. What a mess! – tchrist May 25 '12 at 6:21
@tchrist: I added a screen shot, so you won't have to visit there :^) P.S. I believe this is a relatively recent phenomenon; M-W used to have a much cleaner screen, if I remember right. Hard for me to know for sure, though; I usually to only visit there when I'm using Firefox, where my database for adblock add-on is thoroughly stocked. – J.R. May 25 '12 at 9:46

“Over 15”? Perhaps. I only count 14 definitions, though:

  1. To proceed, move, or change to a lower place or condition; to descend (from, †of); also transf. (of a road, passage, etc.) to lead downwards. Of a vessel: To go to the bottom, sink. to go down on one's knees (see knee n.).
  2. To extend, be continued down to a certain point.
  3. To be overthrown; to fall before a conqueror.
  4. To be set down in writing.
  5. Of waves, wind, etc.: To subside.
  6. To be swallowed. (Cf. down adv. 11.)
  7. fig. To find acceptance (with a person).
  8. To deteriorate; to decline in health or prosperity; to collapse or die. Also, to be subject to or suffer with (a specified illness or disease).
  9. To go away from a university or college; spec. to leave it permanently.
  10. To be sent to prison. slang.
  11. Bridge. To fail to fulfil one's contract.
  12. In a card-game: to put one's cards on the table; to reveal one's cards.
  13. To happen. slang (orig. U.S.).
  14. Usu. with on: to perform fellatio or cunnilingus on (a person). slang (orig. U.S.).

I suggest we’re talking about sense 10 here, possibly influenced by sense 3.

By the way, I can confirm that sense 11 is not limited to Bridge. It also occurs in card games like Euchre and Sheepshead. Basically any trick-taking card game where you don’t “make” whatever you are supposed to, which in Euchre is trick-count and in Sheepshead is point-count.

I still think this is General Reference.

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Nice march. I'm glad I stayed home. Now we're in the barn. – Callithumpian May 25 '12 at 3:49
I found the 15 definitions from OALD. I guess there are multiple ways of interpreting this phrase based on the context. I would've accepted John Lawler's answer, but since that isn't an option I guess I have to accept MetaEd's based on submission time since there's no definitive answer to the question. – Theo May 25 '12 at 14:33
RE: 14 or 15... For words with more than a couple different meanings, it seems rather common for reputable dictionaries to vary on the exact number of definitions provided. To pin down all the subtle nuances, usages, and shades of meaning for a single word is not an exact science, hence, the definitions get enumerated differently ~ that's been my observation. – J.R. May 25 '12 at 15:07
Theo, regarding your comment here, you do have another option. You could write a comment @JohnLawler above, and ask him to convert his comment to an answer. (I've seen that done before, and I believe it's a widely-accepted practice within EL&U.) – J.R. May 25 '12 at 15:11
I'd hope he sees your message. – Theo May 25 '12 at 17:15

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