from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. In trouble; in a difficult situation.


This phrase may have come from Haslar Creek in Portsmouth harbour, a 'salt' creek (may be origin of alternative 'up a shit creek'). Wounded sailors during Nelson's time, were taken there to be admitted to the Royal Naval Hospital Haslar to die or recover. The ship's moored up in the Solent and the wounded soldiers were transported up Haslar creek by tramline hence 'Up the creek without a paddle'. They were held prisoner so that they would not desert while being treated, and some tried to escape by going through the sewers to the creek (another suggested origin of the alternative 'up a shit creek'). Without a paddle this would be hopeless, hence the phrase 'up the creek (without a paddle)' to mean being trapped, stuck or in trouble. Much very obscure navy related jargon entered popular culture in the seafaring peoples of the British Isles, and thus entered the English language as a whole. (Wiktionary)


  • Headlamp in hand, Boggins stumped up the creek bed.


  • Len and the other fellow, a chap called Sam Baker, pegged away up the creek as hard as they could go, but feeling pretty blue about catching the swaggie.

    A Little Bush Maid

  • Loraine Lisznayi takes to the trail, and then went up the creek to give orders for the superintendence of his Bonanza mines during his absence.

    Jack London Play:The Scorn of Women

  • The reports of our guns had been heard by Captain Meinhold, who at once started with his company up the creek to our aid, and when the remaining Indians, whom we were still fighting, saw these reinforcements coming they whirled their horses and fled; as their steeds were quite fresh they made their escape.

    The Life of Hon William F Cody

  • Using stones, they weighted down the shelter that covered Nims's body then trudged up the creek without light or conversation, saving their batteries figuratively and literally.


  • "Without them the Colony'd be up the creek without a paddle."

    Noble House


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  • especially bad if you are "without a paddle"

    December 16, 2007