DEFINITION of 'Belly Up'
A slang term used to describe the complete and abject failure of an individual, corporation, bank, development project, etc. The term belly up is often used to describe a financial institution that has failed and been closed by regulators.
BREAKING DOWN 'Belly Up'
The Oxford English Dictionary records the earliest usage of the term in 1920 in the work of novelist John Dos Passos. During New York City's financial crisis in 1975, a columnist for the Washington Post declared "If New York can go belly-up, why not any city in the nation."