Definition of rope in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /rəʊp/


1A length of thick strong cord made by twisting together strands of hemp, sisal, nylon, or similar material: there was no way down, even with a rope [mass noun]: coils of rope
More example sentences
  • My eyes came to rest on a long strand of thick hemp rope, slightly frazzled but still in one piece.
  • A single strand of grass is easy to break, but if you weave enough of it together, you can get a nice, strong length of rope.
  • He stood up with about a two-foot length of hefty hemp rope in his hands.
cord, cable, line, strand, hawser;
1.1North American A lasso.
Example sentences
  • We had eight ropers out the first day and some of them had never thrown a rope in an arena, and there wasn't a calf missed.
1.2 (the rope) Used in reference to execution by hanging: executions by the rope continued well into the twentieth century
More example sentences
  • The complete disregard for law and order which is so prevalent today is the direct result of the policies of the Government which resulted in the cane being abolished for disobedient schoolboys and the rope for murderers.
1.3 (the ropes) The ropes enclosing a boxing or wrestling ring.
Example sentences
  • The announcer's voice came back into perspective with Dice as he sprinted into the ring, sliding under the ropes.
  • Hw walked down to the ring and bounced back and forth off the ropes.
2A quantity of roughly spherical objects such as onions or beads strung together: a rope of pearls
More example sentences
  • How exquisite she would look in the rope of garnet beads my mother gave me years ago for a birthday present.
  • He wore a rope of shining rubies around his neck and had a gold ring dangling from his right ear.
  • She gingerly pulled the rope of pearls out of the box, staring at them in disbelief, as if she expected them to disappear any moment.
3 (the ropes) informal The established procedures in an organization or area of activity: I want you to show her the ropes
Mid 19th century: with reference to ropes used in sailing
More example sentences
  • He wants me to continue my studies there and learn the ropes of our business.
  • A good staff is the institutional memory of your business; an important resource as you learn the ropes.
  • If it is a big house, consider bringing in an experienced person to show you the ropes and help you figure out the mixes.
know what to do, know the procedure, know the routine, know one's way around, know one's stuff, know what's what, understand the set-up, be experienced, be an old hand, know all the ins and outs
informal know the drill, know the score


[with object]
1Catch, fasten, or secure with rope: the calves must be roped and led out of the stockade the climbers were all roped together
More example sentences
  • They rope his hand and attach the other end to a door bolt and leave the poor dolt there.
  • Nevertheless, as a precaution, the murderers roped their victims together and led them to a gully where any attempt to escape would be impeded before they went about their grisly business.
  • They built a little hut out of a tarp, then roped their plastic ponchos together and hung it between to trees to make a ceiling.
tie, bind, lash, truss, pinion;
secure, moor, fasten, make fast, attach;
hitch, tether, lasso
1.1 (rope something off) Enclose or separate an area with a rope or tape: police roped off the area
More example sentences
  • The area around the tree is roped off and reserved for those with special tickets.
  • This year, it was finally decided that their crumbling site would be roped off, depriving the revellers of their usual spot.
  • Walking in the rain because the escalators down to the dangerously overcrowded platforms have been roped off for safety.
1.2 [no object] Climbing (Of a party of climbers) connect each other together with a rope: we stopped at the foot of the ridge and roped up
More example sentences
  • I can still see myself roping up, checking all of my knots, and peeking over at Mikey; hoping for a bit of encouragement or maybe just a bit of courage.
  • Today the team roped up and headed up for a tour of the upper Khumbu Glacier.
  • You could rope up and go ice climbing on the Kennicott or Root glaciers, or hike across the tundra to an alpine lake.
1.3 [no object] (rope down/up) Climbing Climb down or up using a rope: the party had been roping down a hanging glacier
More example sentences
  • We roped up at the base, did our cross-check, then climbed up a short wall and across easy slopes, traversing upward and left until we reached an obvious belay.
  • So, once again we roped up and got ready to climb.
  • The Rock Climbing Section minimized rope burn while rappelling (then called ‘roping down’) by feeding the rope through a carabiner, a metal link attached to their gear.
2 (rope someone in/into) Persuade someone, despite reluctance, to take part in (an activity): anyone who could sing in tune was roped in
More example sentences
  • While academicians and sitting district judges were the adjudicators for the semi-finals, three sitting judges of the High Court were roped in for the final.
  • For the first time, acrobats from Russia have been roped in to ensure there is greater excitement.
  • Lynda and some of her students had been on a field study in the Duddon Valley; Stuart had been roped in to drive the school mini-bus.
persuade to/into, talk into, inveigle into;
enlist, engage
informal drag in/into



give a man enough rope (or plenty of rope) and he will hang himself

proverb Given enough freedom of action a person will bring about their own downfall.

money for old rope

see money.
a cinch, child's play, a gift, a walkover
informal a doddle, a walk in the park, a piece of cake, a picnic, money for jam, a breeze, kids' stuff, a cushy job/number, a doss, a cakewalk, a pushover
North American informal duck soup
Australian/New Zealand informal a bludge
South African informal a piece of old tackie
dated a snip
British vulgar slang a piece of piss

on the rope

Climbing Roped together: the technique of moving together on the rope

on the ropes

Boxing Forced against the ropes by the opponent’s attack.
Example sentences
  • It's the first round and Jackie's been on the ropes twice.
  • He is moving better and not laying on the ropes at all.
  • Bogie came out swinging, trying to put Dino on the ropes and Dino responds with a flurry of his own.
4.1In state of near collapse or defeat: behind the apparent success the company was on the ropes
More example sentences
  • The US is on the ropes because investment is collapsing, profits are imploding and share prices cascading.
  • Similarly, it's unwise, in my opinion, to offer false promises to an enemy who's trying to make a deal with you and is already on the ropes, if you can defeat him by straight-forward play.
  • The once-dazzling market is on the ropes as the bear market, fierce competition - and hubris - take their toll

a rope of sand

literary Used in allusion to something providing only illusory security or coherence: our union will become a mere rope of sand
More example sentences
  • The effort to maintain his dream with such consistency as to make it a reality is enormous, ‘much more arduous than weaving a rope of sand or coining the faceless wind’.
  • China was still, as Sun Yatsen said, ‘a rope of sand’.


Old English rāp, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch reep and German Reif.

  • This is one of the oldest English words, recorded as early as ad 725. A way of dealing with a person who is causing problems is to give them enough rope—in full give a man enough rope and he will hang himself. On the ropes is from boxing, and conjures up the picture of a losing contestant forced back by his opponent against the ropes that mark the sides of the ring. To show someone the ropes is to teach them the established way of doing things. The origins of this expression go back to the mid 19th century and the days of sailing ships. Skill in handling ropes and tying knots was essential for any sailor, and the idea was soon extended to other walks of life. A range of variations on the theme developed, including learn the ropes and the more familiar know the ropes. Ropy meaning ‘not very good’ is RAF slang, dating from the early 1940s. It probably derives from the phrase money for old rope ( see money), although another idea links it to the old biplanes, festooned with ‘ropes’ or supporting wires, that were then being replaced by modern Spitfires and Hurricanes.

Words that rhyme with rope

aslope, cope, dope, elope, grope, hope, interlope, lope, mope, nope, ope, pope, scope, soap, taupe, tope, trope

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: rope

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.