Green’s Dictionary of Slang

three sheets in the wind phr.

also a few sheets in the wind, a sheet in the wind’s eye, in the wind, three sheets before the breeze, …in the breeze, …to the wind, …over, …spread (in the wind), two sheets to the wind, under the wind
[naval imagery, a ship carrying ‘three sheets (sails) to the wind’ is ‘top-heavy’]

drunk, also as one/two/four/six/seven sheets to the wind; abbr. as three sheets etc; occas. intoxicated by a drug (see cit. 1962 Crump).

[UK]Exeter Flying Post 20 Jan. 2/4: The latter was as groggy as Jack tar, three sheets in the wind.
[UK] ‘Sparring Exhibitions’ in Fancy I XVII 410: He went down like a log, and was picked up as groggy as a sailor three sheets to the wind.
[US]Lafitte 10: You know too when a sailor gets his ‘three sheets spread in the wind,’ he fears neither God, man or the devil.
[UK]M. Scott Cruise of the Midge II 189: Poor Hause, now three sheets to the wind, was sitting, doing the agreeable.
[US]T. Haliburton Clockmaker II 172: Jack was considerable in the wind.
[US]Whip & Satirist of NY & Brooklyn (NY) 19 Mar. n.p.: They kept up [...] pouring spirits down, at every tavern [so they] were rather flabberdegasted, hot, how-came-you-so, cornered, three-sheets-in-the-wind, half-seas-over.
[UK]J. Lindridge Sixteen-String Jack 210: He [...] assumed the swagger of a cove a few sheets in the wind.
[US]W.T. Porter Big Bear of Arkansas (1847) 172: When he gets three sheets spred, and is tryin’ to unfarl the fourth, he can jist out-laugh the univarse.
[Aus]‘ Week in Oxford’ in Bell’s Life in Sydney 8 Nov. 4/2: The loud and discordant laugh of men evidently ‘three sheets in the wind’.
[UK]Sam Sly 17 Feb. 2/3: Mr. Tom, you were seen the other night three sheets in the wind, and with a dirty w— by your side.
[UK]Dickens ‘Slang’ in Household Words 24 Sept. 75/2: For the one word drunk [...] far-gone, tight, not able to see a hole through a ladder, three sheets in the wind [etc.].
[UK]Proc. Old Bailey 4 Feb. 482: I was about three sheets in the wind, and pretty well all the house were half and half.
[US]H.E. Taliaferro Fisher’s River 33: Our Stewart’s Creek hero ‘moseyed’ off, ‘three sheets in the breeze.’.
[US]C. Abbey diary 19 Apr. in Gosnell Before the Mast (1989) 256: He was extremely glad to see me, although he was ‘three sheets in the wind.’.
[UK]M. MacFie Vancouver Island and British Columbia 420: Neither shalt thou destroy thyself by getting [...] ‘high,’ nor ‘corned,’ nor ‘half-seas over,’ nor ‘three sheets in the wind.’.
[UK]‘Old Calabar’ Won in a Canter I 111: ‘Well, old man, [...] three sheets in the wind, eh, last night? you went ahead in fine style, pitched into us all’.
[US]Dodge City Times 8 Aug. in Miller & Snell Why the West was Wild 14: James entered (three-sheets-in-the-wind drunk).
[Scot]R.L. Stevenson Treasure Island 161: Maybe you think we were all a sheet in the wind’s eye. But I’ll tell you I was sober.
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ Robbery Under Arms (1922) 271: They had been drinking at a flash kind of inn [...] and when they rode up to the house it seems they were all of ’em three sheets in the wind.
Kilburn Times 11 Oct. 3/4: ‘ sheet in the wind’s eye’ [is] suggestive of unsteadiness caused by intoxication.
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 14 June 4/3: When the Rooster came home, in his usual state / Of three sheets in the wind.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 31 Jan. 6/2: Tompkins had so many sheets in the wind by this time that he could not see clearly for their fluttering.
[UK]Globe (London) 6 Jan. 1/5: Sailors love roundabout expressions for drinking [...] to be a ‘sheet in the wind’s eye’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 31 Mar. 12/3: [They] were paralyzed to see one gallant officer kissing all the male acquaintances he could catch, and letting maudlin tears trickle down his nose on to the wharf. It is only fair to say that the same hardy Clancy, who gained his bush experience on the Collins-st. Block, was over two sheets in the wind.
[US]J.W. Carr ‘Words from Northwest Arkansas’ in DN III:i 98: three sheets in the wind, n.phr. Expression used of drunken man. ‘He’s got three sheets in the wind’.
[UK]W.W. Jacobs ‘Self-Help’ in Monkey’s Paw (1962) 233: He goes up Tower Hill [...] walking very slow and very unsteady on his pins, and giving my two beauties the idea that ’e is three sheets in the wind.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 15 Jan. 9/3: Them [i.e. women] what’s a trifle swellish, / Seem to do just as they please, / Though they gets occasionally / Sometimes three sheets in the breeze.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 29 Aug. 13/2: [T]he ‘staff captain’ is going to have a busy time teaching the fresh batches of stokers [...] that hoisting a sail has nothing to do with being three sheets in the wind.
[US]M.G. Hayden ‘Terms Of Disparagement’ in DN IV:iii 220: three or four sheets in the wind, intoxicated.
[US] ‘Sl. Expressions for Drunk’ in New Republic in AS XVI:1 (1941) 9 Mar. 70: [...] four sheets in the wind.
[UK]J.B. Priestley Good Companions 422: If he isn’t three sheets i’ t’wind by tonight, call me a liar, lad.
[UK](con. WWI) F. Richards Old Soldiers Never Die (1964) 122: He had come across the storeman [...] about three sheets in the wind.
[US]Howsley Argot: Dict. of Und. Sl. 51: three sheets – drunk.
[US]P.G. Brewster ‘Folk “Sayings” From Indiana’ in AS XIV:4 263: Of an intoxicated man it is said that he is ‘full as a tick,’ ‘full as a goose,’ ‘drunk as a lord,’ ‘three sheets to the wind.’.
[US]H.B. Hersey G.I. Laughs 171: Slightly draped, a couple of sheets in the wind.
[US]P. Kendall Dict. Service Sl. n.p.: three sheets in the wind . . . quite drunk.
[UK]S. Murphy Stone Mad (1966) 166: He was a pleasure to watch when he was three sheets in the wind.
[Aus]D. Cusack Caddie 143: By the way he was tearin’ the skee into him he’ll be four sheets in the wind.
[US]N. Algren Walk on the Wild Side 14: Dove would see the pair of fools going at it again and both three sheets over.
[US]P. Crump Burn, Killer, Burn! 166: He lit two reefers and passed one to me [...] ‘Whew, I’m three sheets in the wind.’.
[UK]R. Cook Crust on its Uppers 29: Once, when she had a sheet in the wind, she even let me hide in a cupboard.
[Aus] ‘Whisper All Aussie Dict.’ in Kings Cross Whisper (Sydney) xli 4/3: three sheets before breeze: To be drunk.
[US]E. Thompson Garden of Sand (1981) 291: I come home one night from a singin trip, about three sheets to the wind, and she’d moved my things out on the porch.
[UK]Guardian 22 Feb. 31/4: Three sheets in the wind, fu’ as a puggy (Scots) and feeling great.
[Aus]K. Gilbert Living Black 229: He was a bit under the wind.
[UK]F. Norman Too Many Crooks Spoil the Caper 36: I wound up at the Marabu Club, four sheets to the wind, long after midnight.
[US]K. Vacha Quiet Fire 157: He came back to the base about two o’clock in the morning, three sheets to the wind.
[US]L. Heinemann Paco’s Story (1987) 202: Six or seven sheets to the wind, these guys.
[US]P. Cornwell Body of Evidence (1992) 365: We finally caught up with him at Sloppy Joe’s, by which time he was three sheets to the wind.
[US](con. 1949) G. Pelecanos Big Blowdown (1999) 202: ‘Aw, hell, Karras, I’m too drunk.’ ‘I’m three sheets myself.’.
[US]Da Bomb 🌐 25: Seven sheets to the wind: Drunk.
[Aus]Bug (Aus.) 24 Feb. 🌐 Or, most shameful of all, too pissed or just not mean enough to be able to go the knuckle with some other fuckknuckle in a respectable and competent way when 23 sheets to the wind.
[Aus]P. Carey Theft 84: I was shickered, three sheets to the wind.
[US]L. Berney Whiplash River [ebook] She and her girlfriend three sheets to the wind.
E. Petulengro Caravans & Wedding Bands 15: Betty [...] was always two sheets to the wind.
[UK]J. Sweeney ‘Bad Days in Bakhmut’ in JohnSweeneyRoars 7 Sept. 🌐 The kebab guy, Roma, looks like John Belushi in Animal House with less front teeth and is ten sheets to the wind.
[US]F. Bill Back to the Dirt 137: He was two sheets to the wind and smelled like a pub.