sixes and sevens, at
At sixes and sevens means in confusion or disorder. It is a very old catchphrase and originally relating to gambling with dice. There are many minor variants of the phrase. Sometimes and is replaced with or or at is replaced by on or set on. The plural numbers also occasionally appear as singular.
It originally referred to betting one’s entire fortune on one throw of the dice. It connoted carelessness, and over time the phrase came to mean confusion, disorder, and disagreement. The phrase dates to c.1374 when it appears in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde:
Lat nat this wrechched wo thyn herte gnawe, But manly set the world on sexe and seuene.
(Let not this wretched woe gnaw at your heart, But manly set the world on six and seven.)
(Source: Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition)
Copyright 1997-2014, by David Wilton