I would like to know the exact meaning of this phrase "cut my legs out from under me".

I've been searching for it everywhere, but until now I've only come across the definition of "cut the ground from under somebody's feet". And I know it is not the same. Though, I've heard on some TV shows people saying "cut my legs out from under me".


2 Answers 2


Merriam Webster's definition for have one's legs/feet/knees cut out from under (one) is as follows:

be knocked down by something that hits one's legs very hard

  • When I learned that I was seriously ill, I felt as if my feet were cut out from under me.

often used figuratively.

  • When the program lost the grant its financial legs had been cut out from under it.

According to MW's popularity index they list it as " Bottom 10% of words"

I can't say I've heard it before. While searching online I saw an equivalent French term "couper l'herbe sous le pied", and also saw more example sentences.

Two of the example sentences quoted below are of Canadian origin.

  • Organized crime has emerged as the number one threat to Canada's overall security, yet the government has cut the legs out from under Canada's security committee

  • "Having a national formulary as a defining component of a national pharmacare program," said Brian Ferguson, "would cut the legs out from under the provinces to make decisions about how they ration across different parts of their programs." (sources for this quote)

Perhaps it's an expression that has transitioned from French Canadians to English Canadians?

Thinking about this further, I know an expression "to have your legs kicked out from under you" which would basically hold the same meaning as MW's definition above.

  • 1
    As a Canadian, I've heard the phrase often. (Although I don't know if it came from French Canada.) I'd also say it's an idiom here. Sep 5, 2018 at 18:34
  • What a gruesome expression. :) New to me too.
    – Lambie
    Sep 5, 2018 at 19:19
  • I’ve heard it, in BrE. Think of a fouling soccer player aiming for the legs of his opponent instead of aiming for the ball.
    – Jelila
    Sep 5, 2018 at 23:50
  • I've heard it; maybe relevant that I'm from a border state (Michigan)? Also versions using knock instead of cut.
    – 1006a
    Sep 6, 2018 at 4:46

My Dad used to use the term in a manner with less outward accusation (not blaming another) of “my legs went out from under me”, I think he meant it in the sense of being utterly flabbergasted or staggered by what someone says.

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