a/the sword of Damocles

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sword of Damocles

Also, Damocles' sword. Impending disaster, as in The likelihood of lay-offs has been a sword of Damocles over the department for months. This expression alludes to the legend of Damocles, a servile courtier to King Dionysius I of Syracuse. The king, weary of Damocles' obsequious flattery, invited him to a banquet and seated him under a sword hung by a single hair, so as to point out to him the precariousness of his position. The idiom was first recorded in 1747. The same story gave rise to the expression hang by a thread.
See also: Damocles, of, sword

sword of Damocles

an imminent danger.
When the courtier Damocles described Dionysius I, ruler of Syracuse ( 405–367 bc ), as the happiest of men, Dionysius gave him a graphic demonstration of the fragility of his happiness: he invited Damocles to a banquet, in the middle of which he looked up to see a naked sword suspended over his head by a single hair.
See also: Damocles, of, sword

a/the sword of ˈDamocles

(literary) a bad or unpleasant thing that might happen to you at any time and that makes you feel worried or frightened: Now the news of my divorce is public, I’m relieved in a way. It had been hanging over my head like the sword of Damocles.This expression comes from the Greek legend in which Damocles had to sit at a meal with a sword hanging by a single hair above his head. He had praised King Dionysius’ happiness, and Dionysius wanted him to understand how quickly happiness can be lost.
See also: Damocles, of, sword

sword of Damocles

An imminent and/or constant threat. According to Greek legend, Damocles, a friend of King Dionysius of Syracuse, envied the ruler's great wealth and power. When Damocles told the king how fortunate he was, Dionysius offered to change places for a day. As Damocles dined at the head of the table, he happened to look up. There above his head, held by only a single horsehair, hung a sharp sword pointing downward toward his chair. Frozen with fear that the thread would break, he pointed out the predicament to the king. Dionysius nodded, acknowledging that the sword was a constant factor in his life, an actual and a metaphoric reminder that some person or circumstance might at any time cut the thread. Such risk, the king added, comes as an integral part of power. Any ever-present risk, especially one that's hanging by a thread, is how the phrase has been used.
See also: Damocles, of, sword
References in periodicals archive ?
The result of Corona's impeachment should have been a lesson on the part of the appointing power, as well as to those to be appointed, to be aware that there is a sword of Damocles over their heads so that they should exercise their duty in accordance to what is right, legal and fair,' Valdez said.
So this will be a sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of the chairpersons.
More importantly, as a result of melting of glaciers due to global warming, a sword of Damocles remains hanging over our heads in the shape of floods.
Honor killing has been used as a sword of damocles against the womenfolk in some parts of our society where women live under constant fear, he added.
The recent report from civil servant Sir Bob Kerslake was very damning, and currently the threat of a possible breaking up is being held over Birmingham City Council like a Sword of Damocles, waiting to slice down should changes not be made.
This is not something that we want but these are people g g they we who have got a Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads - they do not know where they are going to be a couple of weeks hence.
But that will be difficult to implement when a deficit is hanging over the new administration like a sword of Damocles.
Elections would be a sword of Damocles for Thaci as well, more than for other leaders.
This is a sword of Damocles hanging over the conference," commented Artur Runge-Metzger, the European Commission's chief negotiator.
CHESTER CITY'S new manager Jim Harvey is relishing the task ahead, despite the current punitive points deduction which is hanging over the Blue Square Premier League club like a Sword of Damocles.
She likened the disease to a sword of Damocles hanging over her family and said to be able to eliminate that risk was priceless.
To put that sort of money up in the first place is a Sword of Damocles over the route.
I used to believe, and nothing's happened to make me change my mind, that this was because management found it easier to control staff and hold a Sword of Damocles over their head - that if they didn't toe the line, the contract wasn't extended.
It will be a sword of Damocles over the merger; there has never been a legal case of this kind before," warned Pascal Rogard, director of the producers association ARP.
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