In the dictionary:

have someone over a barrel
If someone has you over a barrel, they have put you in a situation where you are forced to do what they want.

barrel a hollow cylindrical container or unit

I had understood have someone over a barrel as a whole phrase, what does barrel mean in the phrase "get somebody over a barrel" ?

  • If by sb you mean somebody, please write out the full word. – Jason Bassford May 10 '19 at 15:35

It means the large wooden container for beer or similar.

A prisoner would be tied, face forward, onto a board with a barrel in the middle. This would bend their body forward. They could then be whipped or beaten with a paddle as punishment. This is illustrated in this picture from wikipedia

enter image description here

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