to come a cropper

Mr Bones

Senior Member
España - Español
Hello, friends. I wanted to ask you about the expression to come a cropper. I just heard it in Brideshead Revisited and I'd like to know where does it stem from. Is it another idiom that we have to take as a whole or does it have an explanation? Does cropper come from crop? So, what's the problem with crops?

I think I understand the meaning, but I don't know how often it is used now in AE and BE.

I'm afraid I can't provide with the whole sentence because I didn't write it down, but I think it was referred to a man who started a bussiness and failed. One character sums up the whole thing saying: He came a cropper.

Thank you very much in advance. And I'd be so glad if you corrected my English.

Regards, Mr Bones.
  • suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    when people use this phrase, as they still often to in the UK, they just mean to fail at something, possibly in a public or demeaning way.

    It can be used in various ways, from falling off a horse, or having a failing business. An average UK speaker would not be aware of where the phrase comes from ..

    I found this article which you might like:
    which suggests it started with falling off a horse, where the "crop" is part of the horse's shoulder or neck area.


    Senior Member
    UK - English (native), Spanish, French
    Am pretty sure that it can be used for most types of unfortunate situations, though they tend to be more trivial rather than serious.

    Gatamariposa :)