At sixes and sevens


      • confusion or disorganization
        To describe a situation or state where things are disorderly, chaotic, or unsettled

      • disagreement or conflict
        To refer to a situation where people are at odds or in a state of disagreement

    Examples of At sixes and sevens

    • Sarah was feeling completely disorganized and confused, like she was playing a game of sixes and sevens.

      This idiom refers to being in a state of confusion or disarray. It comes from a medieval game called "twelve pens and threeseves," where players would try to sort twelve pens into three piles, but it was nearly impossible to do so. This game was said to be played "at sixes and sevens," meaning it was played haphazardly and with no clear plan or organization. When we use this idiom today, we mean that someone is similarly disorganized or confused, unable to sort things out or make sense of a situation.


    "At sixes and sevens" is a commonly used idiom that can have two main meanings. The first meaning is to describe a state of confusion or disorganization, where things are not in their usual order, and there is a lack of structure or clarity. This can be used to describe a physical space, a plan or schedule, or even someone's thoughts. The second meaning is to refer to a state of disagreement or conflict, where people are not in harmony and have conflicting opinions or ideas.

    This idiom is often used in a negative connotation, as it implies that things are not going smoothly or as planned. It can be used in various contexts, such as in a work setting to describe a disorganized project or in a social setting to describe a heated argument. In both cases, the idiom conveys a sense of chaos and disorder.

    Origin of "At sixes and sevens"

    The origin of this idiom is not entirely clear, but there are a few theories about its origins. One theory suggests that it comes from an old English dice game called "hazard," where six and seven were considered the most difficult numbers to roll, resulting in confusion and chaos among players. Another theory suggests that it comes from a medieval trade guild called "The Merchant Taylors," where the sixth and seventh ranks were often in dispute, causing confusion and disorder within the guild.

    Regardless of its origin, "at sixes and sevens" has been in use since the 14th century and has been recorded in various works of literature, including Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales." Today, it is a widely recognized idiom used in both formal and informal contexts to describe a state of confusion or disagreement.