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Difficult or impossible to retrieve or recover: Once the ring fell down the drain, it was irretrievable.

ir′re·triev′a·ble·ness, ir′re·triev′a·bil′i·ty n.
ir′re·triev′a·bly adv.



by the board Ruined, disregarded, forgotten; over and done with; literally, by or over a ship’s side, overboard; usually in the phrase go by the board. This expression comes from the nautical sense of board ‘the side of a ship.’ The phrase was used literally in its nautical sense as early as 1630 but did not appear in figurative usage until 1859.

down the drain Wasted, lost, gone. The phrase, in use since 1930, probably refers to the way liquid disappears down a drainpipe. A more recent variant, equally popular today, is down the tube. The extended expression pour down the drain denotes an unnecessary or extravagant waste of time or money.

lost in the wash Lost in the confused and chaotic jumble of events, proceedings, etc. Considered literally, this expression brings to mind the occasional but mysterious disappearance of various articles of clothing in automatic washing machines. In this expression, however, wash refers not to laundry but to a body of water, as it does in the following lines from Shakespeare’s King John:

I’ll tell thee, Hubert, half my power this night,
Passing these flats, are taken by the tide.
These Lincoln Washes have devoured them. (V,vi)

out the window Irretrievably lost or forfeited. The image conveyed by this American slang expression reinforces the idea of irretrievable loss, both of material possessions and emotional security, such as that provided by one’s career, reputation, and the like.

up the spout Pawned, in hock; ruined, lost, gone. In a pawnbroker’s shop the spout is the lift used to carry pawned items to an upper floor for storage. While the phrase was used literally as early as 1812, it did not appear in its figurative sense until 1853 in Dods’ Early Letters:

The fact is, Germany is up the spout, and consequently a damper is thrown over my hopes for next summer.

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References in periodicals archive ?
A case of bronze fragments --finger, a solitary ear, a segment of hair--is the visual representation of the irretrievability of the original statues.
The bracelet is far more than a handsome ornament; it proves the incontrovertible witness to Angelica's irretrievability and serves as the catalyst for Orlando's madness.
Hans von Marees, soberly registering the irretrievability of the past) and the explosive vitality of Arnold Bocklin.
Under all the settings and plot contrivances, love--and its elusiveness--is the candle that keeps diminishing into the wax of irretrievability.
Garson states, "the irretrievability lost world of childhood" (33), but for a time when the freedom of choice seemed possible.
In the present time, as we gaze at the photographs, their seeming "small sighs of despair" express the irretrievability of the dead intervening years, as well as the disappearance of those people now literally dead whom the images record.
If anything, the belatedness and irretrievability of the past make the realization, as he says, "hopelessly poignant.
275) and may ultimately even result in hermeneutical irretrievability of the 'true' story.
Yet, for all its irretrievability, for all the gulfs that time creates, perpetually marooning us on the little island of the present, reaching out to touch the same object that inspired my six-year-old self helps to confer some sense of continuity to set beside all the changes that separate now from then.
The major differences of such virtual communities from traditional communities are: 1) the freedom from geographical limitation; 2) the accessibility at one's own convenience; 3) the irretrievability of information/messages; and 4) the limitation of communicative acts to textual messages.