Here is a scenario:

Suppose X, Y, and Z live together.

X and Z had a fight and X decided they did not wish to live with Z any more.

Seeing this, Y decided to help X to force Z out. But then X and Z became friends, and Y was left out alone.

What is that word/idiom that explains Y's condition here?

PS: You can think of X, Y, Z as 3 Kings under one Greater Kingdom.

  • There's a French phrase for this: ménage à trois (pronounced in English as /'menaʒatwa/). May 15, 2015 at 18:15
  • 1
    i tried to check in web what ménage à trois mean. Sorry to say thats not what I'm looking for.
    – kishoredbn
    May 15, 2015 at 18:18
  • 3
    That's a very specific scenario and I doubt there's a dedicated word to describe it in English. That said, when one person feels extraneous or supernumerary to a group or clique, he is often described as a fifth wheel (which is of course superfluous on a 4-wheeled vehicle).
    – Dan Bron
    May 15, 2015 at 18:24
  • ... and that's how Y became X's neighbor, and didn't know how to talk to him when he saw him in town.
    – Tushar Raj
    May 15, 2015 at 19:15
  • Who's on first? Dec 31, 2017 at 17:26

4 Answers 4


It’s impossible to say if things would have turned out differently for Y if he’d aligned himself with Z against X from the start but if so (and even regardless) it seems that Y

bet on/backed the wrong horse.



no good deed goes unpunished proverb Beneficial actions often go unappreciated or are met with outright hostility. If they are appreciated, they often lead to additional requests. - wiktionary

Presumably, Y thought it a good deed to help X, but that turned out to be less than beneficial for Y.

Note that like many proverbs, this proverb is a generalisation that doesn't always hold true.


I would say that Y was double-crossed. Or X double-crossed Y.


One U.S. idiom that may apply here is "odd man out." According to Christine Ammer, American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms (1995), the phrase can be used in a gender-neutral sense:

odd man out 1. A person who is left out of a group for some reason, as in The invitation was for couples only, so Jane was odd man out. [Mid-1800s] 2. Something or someone who differs markedly from others in a group, as in Among all those ranch-style houses, their Victorian was odd man out. [Late 1800s]

The first definition here (with X and Z forming a group of two people) is the one relevant to the poster's example.

A longer phrase that might be applicable is to say that Y "lost out at musical chairs." Ammer gives this summary of the phrase "play musical chairs":

musical chairs, play Move around from position to position, such as the jobs in an organization. [Example omitted.] This expression alludes to the game in which children walk around a number of seats while music plays, and there is one less chair than players. When the music stops the players must sit down, and the player who is left standing is eliminated. Then another chair is removed, and the game goes on until only one player is left sitting. [c. 1900]

In the context of the poster's scenario, the shifting alliances among X,Y, and Z are the setting for a game of musical chairs with three players and only two chairs; when the music stops, X and Z grab the available seats and Y is left standing.

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