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balance the books
1. Literally, to ensure that the figures regarding credit and debit are correct and to determine the remaining balance, as in a business or in personal finance. I had to stay at work for an extra two hours last night balancing the books.
2. By extension, to try and make up the deficit in a given budget by increasing revenue or income. The President laid out a new economic plan to try to balance the books by increasing taxes on the wealthy.
catch (someone) off balance
To startle someone; to come upon someone unawares and/or when he or she is unprepared. Often used in the past tense. The security guard caught the thieves off balance. That essay question on the exam caught me completely off balance. Your opponent is going to try to catch you off balance during the debate, so just be sure to stick to your position.
be thrown off balance
1. To be made unsteady, such that one may fall. I was thrown off balance on my roller skates when that dog rushed by me and knocked into my legs.
2. To be confused, upset, or taken aback (by something). I was rather thrown off balance when Jenny said she wanted to have a baby.
tilt the balance
To change the balance of a situation, such that one side or element is favored or gains advantage. The two candidates are so close in the polls that both are vying for something that will tilt the balance in their favor. The immense interconnectivity of social media has tilted the balance of power somewhat back into the hands of the ordinary population.
a balancing act
A situation in which one must accomplish a number of tasks at the same time. Mary quickly discovered that working full-time while going to school was going to be quite the balancing act.
the balance of power
the situation where the power held by one governing body or adversary is balanced by the power of another. The balance of power was threatened when China captured our airplane.
to equal out; to become even or fair. These things all balance out in the end. Don't worry. Things will balance out.
balance (something) against (something else)
to consider one thing in reference to another; to weigh one possibility against another possibility. We will have to balance all the good he did against all the bad. The good will be balanced against the bad in the final reckoning.
balance (something) with (something else)
to offset something with something else; to balance something against something else. The teacher tends to balance a harsh grading scheme with a strong sense of fair play. Roger balanced the spicy soup with a bland first course. They balanced his bad behavior with the good, but still felt he was much too rude.
balance the accounts
1. Lit. and balance the books to determine through bookkeeping that accounts are in balance, that all money is accounted for. Jane was up all night balancing the accounts. The cashier was not allowed to leave the bank until the manager balanced the books.
2. Fig. to get even [with someone]. Tom hit Bob. Bob balanced the accounts by breaking Tom's toy car. Once we have balanced the accounts, we can shake hands and be friends again.
checks and balances
a system, as in the U.S. Constitution, where power is shared between the various branches of government. The newspaper editor claimed that the system of checks and balances built into our Constitution has been subverted by party politics.
*in the balance
in an undecided state; at risk. (*Typically: be ~; hang ~.) He stood on the edge of the cliff, his life in the balance. With his fortune in the balance, John rolled the dice.
strike a balance (between two things)
to find a satisfactory compromise between two extremes. The political party must strike a balance between the right wing and the left wing. Jane is overdressed for the party and Sally is underdressed. What a pity they didn't strike a balance between them.
throw someone off balance
1. Lit. to cause someone to falter (and probably fall). The cyclist bumped into me and threw me off balance. I was thrown off balance by the gust of wind.
2. Fig. to confuse or disorient one. Your last question sort of threw me off balance. The teacher was thrown off balance by the students' difficult questions.
hang in the balance
to depend on something for success or continued existence With thousands of jobs hanging in the balance, there's a lot of competition to attract new factories.
Usage notes: sometimes used without hang: They don't think we should get involved, even if lives are in the balance.
surprised or confused Policy makers were caught off balance by the speed and success of Canada's efforts to ban the weapons.
Usage notes: often used with keep or throw: The stories were part of an effort to keep the antiwar movement off balance.
Etymology: based on the literal meaning of off balance (likely to fall)
after considering everything They felt sure that, on balance, they had made the right choice.
tip the balance
to cause a change, esp. in making something more likely to happen tip the scales One or two senators can tip the balance of power on almost any issue.
a balancing/juggling act
a difficult situation in which you try to achieve several different things at the same time It's so exhausting having to perform the balancing act between work and family. Keeping both sides in the dispute happy was a difficult juggling act which required an extraordinary degree of diplomacy.
be/hang in the balance
if something hangs in the balance, no one knows whether it will continue to exist in the future or what will happen to it Judd's career hung in the balance last night after his team lost their sixth successive game. The financial situation is by no means resolved and the club's future is still very much in the balance.
after thinking about all the different facts or opinions On balance, I would say that it hasn't been a bad year. The report found that, on balance, most people would prefer a female doctor to a male one.
swing/tip the balance
to make something more likely to happen, or to make someone more likely to succeed They were both well-qualified for the job but Ian had more experience and that tipped the balance. The success of this film could tip the balance in favour of other British films in the future.See throw off balance
checks and balances
rules intended to prevent one person or group from having too much power within an organization A system of checks and balances exists to ensure that our government is truly democratic.
throw somebody off balance
to confuse or upset someone for a short time by saying or doing something that they are not expecting (usually passive) I wasn't expecting any interaction with the audience and was thrown off balance by his question.
balance the books
1. Add up the debits and credits of an account and determine the difference; also, bring the two sides into equilibrium. For example, It's Joe's job to balance the books each quarter. [Late 1500s]
2. Settle an account by paying what is due, as in We can't balance the books till your last check clears. [Early 1700s]
checks and balances
System whereby each branch of an organization can limit the powers of the other branches, as in The union has used a system of checks and balances to prevent any large local from dominating its policies . This system was enacted through the Constitution of the United States in order to prevent any of its three branches from dominating the Federal government. The term is occasionally transferred to other mechanisms for balancing power.
hang in the balance
Be in a precarious condition or in a state of suspense. For example, The doctor said her life was hanging in the balance. This expression alludes to the suspended balance scale where an object is placed in one pan and weights are added one by one to the other pan until the two are balanced. [First half of 1400s]
1. Out of equilibrium, unsteady, as in When learning how to ride a two-wheeler, it's easy to get off balance and fall, or She stood up and threw the canoe off balance. [Mid-1900s]
2. Surprised, unprepared, as in The teacher gives unannounced tests to keep the class off balance. [Second half of 1900s]
Taking everything into consideration, as in On balance I think we've had a very good year. This expression, which in effect means "balancing all the factors involved," was first recorded in 1719.
redress the balance
Readjust matters, restore equilibrium, as in If our party wins in a few big cities, it will redress the balance of urban and rural interests in the House . [Mid-1800s]
strike a balance
Find a compromise, as in We have to strike a balance between what we want and what we can afford. This expression alludes to accounting, where it signifies finding a profit or loss by weighing income versus outlay. [Mid-1800s]
tip the balance
Also, tip the scales; turn the scale. Offset the balance and thereby favor one side or precipitate an action. For example, He felt that affirmative action had tipped the balance slightly in favor of minority groups , or New high-tech weapons definitely tipped the scales in the Gulf War, or Just one more mistake will turn the scale against them. Shakespeare used turn the scale literally in Measure for Measure (4:2): "You weigh equally; a feather will turn the scale." The idioms with tip are much younger, dating from the first half of the 1900s.
To consider the value of something in relation to another thing: To be fair, we must balance the problems in this plan against its possible benefits.
1. To be or become equal in amount, value, or effect: I had to spend more money this year, but my higher income and my increased spending balanced out.
2. To cause to be equal in amount, value, or effect; equalize: Unfortunately, my loan payments balance out my new income, so I don't have any more money to spend now than I did before.
in the balance
In an undetermined and often critical position: Our plans were left hanging in the balance. Resolution of that item is still in the balance.
Taking everything into consideration; all in all.