On a ship in Avatar The Way of Water (2022), the captain Scoresby is trying to aim a harpoon at a mother Tulkun while commanding his sailors:

Scoresby: Ten meters. Get me in there. Put me in the pocket. Now steady, steady. Stay with her.

What does "in the pocket" mean ?

  • 2
    First thing that comes to mind is a billiards pocket
    – jmoreno
    Oct 22, 2023 at 21:58
  • 1
    It wouldn't surprise me if this was lifted straight out of Moby Dick!
    – Spencer
    Oct 22, 2023 at 23:15
  • This question would have been much better asked at English Language Learners or English Language & Usage.
    – JBH
    Oct 23, 2023 at 22:53

3 Answers 3


I believe he may be using the American football version of pocket.

The passing pocket, or the pocket, is a term used in American football to describe the area in the backfield created on a passing play where the offensive line forms a wall of protection around the quarterback. This allows him adequate time to find an open receiver and to pass the ball. The offensive line will drop back slightly, creating a U-shaped protected area for the quarterback to find an open receiver and pass the ball.

Basically, he's telling them to get him in the position where he can "make his shot" while still being protected.

  • Quarterbacks don't say that, though, and I can't imagine any other American saying it, either.
    – RonJohn
    Oct 23, 2023 at 19:33
  • Quite honestly, not a quarterback here. I don't know exactly how they talk. I just know that "in the pocket" is a phrase I've heard referring to that situation in football.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Oct 23, 2023 at 19:35
  • 1
    You're right about "being in the pocket" being a term in God's True Football. It's what announcers and fans say, though, about QBs, and offensive linemen's competency in maintaining the pocket. "Try and hold the pocket just a little longer next time" is what a QB might say.
    – RonJohn
    Oct 23, 2023 at 19:41
  • 1
    This is a modern use of the idiom, which is better explained in terms of music, which is also a modern use of the idiom. It most likely derives from having the success of finding one's literary effort in The Pocket magazine in the mid 1800s. The movie reference means little more than "put me where I'll be successful" (and sounds cool, to boot).
    – JBH
    Oct 23, 2023 at 23:02

It means within effective striking range (not at the limit of your reach). Think of attack that don't require you to lean or fully extend.

Commonly used in boxing and similar combat sports. In the case of the movie, it means within range to use the harpoon effectively. In combat sports, being in the pocket also means you are also putting yourself in danger.

This all ties together nicely with the situation in the movie. If you have a limited amount of chances to use a weapon, you want to be as close as possible to ensure success even if it means putting yourself in danger.

  • I cannot find a good source for this without violent imagery so I'm a little hesitant to cite anything for this, but a simple Google search for "in the pocket, boxing, MMA" should support the definition.
  • 1
    It seems to be a boxing or MMA expression, relatively new and not one that most viewers would be aware of.
    – Valorum
    Oct 23, 2023 at 10:32
  • 1
    I think it's a fine addendum.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Oct 23, 2023 at 11:25
  • 2
    @Valorum for anyone outside the US the American football expression wouldn't necessarily be familiar
    – Sam Dean
    Oct 23, 2023 at 12:55
  • 1
    @SamDean - Yes, but it's an American film written by a Canadian (who's spent most of this life in America) made by Americans for a largely American audience starring mostly Americans talking American English and using American idioms
    – Valorum
    Oct 23, 2023 at 17:06
  • 2
    @Valorum less than 30% of the box office was the US ($684m/$2,320m) so I'd argue it wasn't largely for an American Audience
    – Sam Dean
    Oct 24, 2023 at 13:30

It's billiards. Line up the shot. Put it in the pocket. All billiards terms.

  • You could improve your answer with some references to explain billiards to people who are unfamiliar with it.
    – DavidW
    Oct 23, 2023 at 16:59
  • 5
    But why would he want to be in the pocket shooting outwards? You put the ball in the pocket, you don't put yourself there
    – Valorum
    Oct 23, 2023 at 17:01

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