Down the pan


      • ruined or wasted
        To describe something that has been destroyed or wasted, often used in a negative or regretful tone.

      • failed or gone wrong
        To indicate that something has not gone as planned or desired, resulting in a negative outcome or failure.

      • lost or disappeared
        To express that something has been lost or disappeared, often used in a dismissive or resigned manner.

    Examples of Down the pan

    • The company's marketing strategy has gone down the pan ever since the recession hit.

      When a strategy or plan fails completely, we say that it "goes down the pan". Here, the company's marketing strategy has become completely useless due to the recession, and is no longer of any use whatsoever, just as the waste in a toilet goes down the pan when we flush it.

    • Sarah's patience with her children's constant misbehaviour is constantly going down the pan.

      When something is decreasing rapidly, we say that it's "going down the pan". In this context, Sarah's ability to remain patient with her children is decreasing rapidly, because she's finding it increasingly difficult to deal with their constant misbehaviour.

    • Because of the economic slowdown, many startups in the area have seen their ideas go down the pan.

      When a plan, idea or project fails completely, we say that it "goes down the pan". Here, the startups' plans and ideas have failed completely as a result of the economic slowdown.

    • We tried everything we could think of to prevent these mistakes, but we couldn't stem the tide; it was all going down the pan.

      When we are completely overwhelmed by a situation, we say that everything is "going down the pan". Here, despite the speaker's best efforts, they were unable to prevent the mistakes from spiralling out of control.


    The idiom "down the pan" is used to describe something that has been ruined, wasted, failed, or lost. It conveys a negative or regretful tone and is often used to express disappointment or frustration. It can also be used in a dismissive or resigned manner to indicate that something is no longer relevant or important.

    Origin of "Down the pan"

    The origin of this idiom is uncertain, but it is believed to have originated in the United Kingdom in the mid-19th century. The word "pan" in this context is thought to refer to a chamber pot, a type of toilet used during that time period. This gives the phrase a literal meaning of something being flushed down the toilet.

    Some sources suggest that the idiom may have originated from the phrase "to go down the drain," which has a similar meaning of something being wasted or lost. Over time, "down the pan" became a more commonly used phrase, especially in British English.

    Today, the idiom is still widely used in British English, but it is also recognized and used in other English-speaking countries. It is often used in informal conversations and can be considered a slang term.