On a hiding to nothing

Origin of: On a hiding to nothing

On a hiding to nothing

To be on a hiding to nothing is one of those ambiguous expressions that can mean one of two things. It can mean a pointless exercise where there is no profit or advantage in winning or even taking part in something, or it can mean impending, unavoidable defeat or failure in some enterprise or other. The word hiding meaning a beating, thrashing or flogging dates from the late early 19th century in the sense that someone is literally beating one’s hide or skin. The word hide meaning skin or pelt is very old and dates from Anglo-Saxon times, c. 900. The expression on a hiding to nothing dates from the late 19th century and derives from a horseracing context, where the odds are so long on a possible victory that they cannot even be expressed mathematically. Today, both senses of the expression are mostly used in business and sporting contexts.