broken vessel: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘broken vessel’ mean?

The idiom "broken vessel" refers to a person who is emotionally or mentally damaged, making them vulnerable and unable to function normally or effectively.

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Shattered Truth

The idiom "broken vessel" is a commonly used phrase in the English language. It can refer to a person who is mentally or emotionally unstable. This suggests that the person is fragile, vulnerable, or unable to function properly. The metaphorical meaning of a broken vessel is derived from the literal meaning of a vessel that is physically broken and can no longer hold or contain its contents.

Similarly, the idiom can also describe someone who is physically injured or impaired. In such cases, it connotes a notion of physical weakness or debilitation, similar to the damaged state of a broken vessel.

Additionally, the idiom can be applied to situations, objects, or systems that are failing or not functioning as intended. This broader usage implies a sense of dysfunction, inefficiency, or lack of effectiveness, reminiscent of a broken vessel that fails to fulfill its purpose.

It is worth noting that the idiom "broken vessel" has biblical origins. In the Bible, specifically in the book of Isaiah, the term is used metaphorically to convey a sense of God's people being rebellious, stubborn, or disobedient. This biblical usage of the idiom carries connotations of moral or spiritual corruption, in addition to the aforementioned interpretations of fragility and dysfunction.

To further delve into related idioms:

The captain's broken vessel caused the shipwreck.

The idiom "weaker vessel" is often used to describe a person, usually a woman, who is deemed to be physically or emotionally weaker than others. It can carry connotations of gender stereotypes and inequality. Similar to the metaphorical meaning of a broken vessel, this idiom highlights the vulnerability and fragility of an individual.

"emotional cripple" is another related idiom. It refers to someone who is emotionally wounded or incapable of expressing or dealing with their emotions. This phrase suggests that the person is emotionally impaired, similar to the way a broken vessel is physically impaired.

"break someone's heart" is a common idiom that means to cause someone emotional pain or distress, often by ending a romantic relationship. This expression conveys the idea that someone's heart, metaphorically seen as a vessel, is damaged or shattered as a result of the emotional experience.

"break down" is an idiom that can be used in various contexts to describe a situation or a person that is no longer functioning properly. It can refer to a physical or mental breakdown, implying a sense of dysfunction or collapse, similar to a broken vessel.

Lastly, the idiom "boy in the boat" refers to a man who lacks confidence or ability in a particular situation, often of a sexual nature. This expression alludes to the vulnerability and insecurity of the person, drawing parallels to the fragile state of a broken vessel.

The idiom "broken vessel" encompasses a range of metaphorical meanings relating to mental, emotional, and physical instability, as well as the failure of systems or objects to function properly. With roots in biblical literature, this idiom highlights the fragility, vulnerability, and dysfunctionality of individuals, as well as broader concepts. The evocative imagery of a broken vessel conveys the profound impact of these circumstances on human experience. While the idiom captures the essence of these situations succinctly, it also leaves room for further exploration and introspection into the complexities of human existence.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom broken vessel can be used in a sentence:

  • She was once a talented musician, but years of substance abuse left her a broken vessel.
  • After the accident, he was no longer able to do the physical labor he loved, becoming a broken vessel.
  • The loss of her child shattered her emotionally, leaving her feeling like a broken vessel.

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