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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 ?
Unlike forgetting, which implies the inability to retrieve past events, Balaguer's blank page constitutes a deliberate elision of a past that is summoned to re-present itself in the very display of its irretrievability.
The storage server to prove the irretrievability for stored data.
If these sketchy remarks are right, then samvega produces and deepens insights in the nature of suffering and the brevity and irretrievability of an individual's life.
The most obvious point of overlap is the visual object in both poems (Eurydice and Christ), for both figures are associated with death, and therefore with a profound passivity that augments their irretrievability.
A case of bronze fragments --finger, a solitary ear, a segment of hair--is the visual representation of the irretrievability of the original statues.
Before it ended on a happy note of supernatural wish fulfillment, the first "Hot Tub Time Machine" (2010) managed to deliver a surprisingly bittersweet meditation--OK, more of an extended brain-fart--on the irretrievability of the past and the inevitable disappointment of the future.
In her conclusion, "The Heritage and Afterlife of Songs," Meeker discusses the inherent tension between "preservation" and "development" and then focusses on the irretrievability of a particular song, "Hu La," which is considered the most difficult song in the genre.
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.
Beyond this simple fact of mortality, however, Patroclus' irretrievability stands in meaningful contrast with the case of Helen, who, in principle at least, can be won back.
Garson states, "the irretrievability lost world of childhood" (33), but for a time when the freedom of choice seemed possible.