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Idiom

Hard Up: Origin and Meaning

Meaning
If you are hard up you have very little money.
Origin
hard up‘Hard up’ was originally a nautical (sailing) term. When a ship needed to be turned away from the wind, the helm (the handle or wheel controlling the ship’s direction) was put ‘hard up’. This was done due to bad weather conditions so nowadays, if someone finds themselves in bad conditions, especially a bad financial condition, they are said to be ‘hard up’.
Examples
“This time last year I was so hard up, I couldn’t afford to buy food!”

“You know I hate to ask but could I borrow some money until I get paid? I’m really hard up this month.”

Jessica: “Where are you going on holiday this summer?”
Laura: “Nowhere this year. Tom lost his job a few months ago so we’re quite hard up at the moment.”