enemy


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let (the) perfect be the enemy of (the) good

To allow the demand, desire, or insistence for perfection decrease the chances of obtaining a good or favorable result in the end. (Usually used in the negative as an imperative.) I know you want your research paper to be great, but don't let perfect be the enemy of good, or you won't even finish it in time! As a manager, you have to realize both the potential and the limits of your employees, so be sure not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
See also: enemy, good, let, of, perfect

sworn enemy

A person, group, or organization for whom one holds a particularly intense, deep-seated hatred. Our environmentalist lobby group is heading out to protest against Big Oil, our sworn enemy.
See also: enemy, sworn

enemy combatant

A term, popularized during the post-9/11 War on Terror, applied to a captured fighter who was allowed fewer rights than those laid out in the Geneva Convention. Many of the enemy combatants captured in Afghanistan were taken to be held at special military sites.
See also: enemy

keep your friends close and your enemies closer

Be very aware of your enemies' behavior in order to detect and avoid any malicious actions. A: "Why were you talking to Katie? I thought you hated her." B: "I'm trying to see if she has any dirt on me for the student council debate. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, right?"
See also: and, close, enemy, friend, keep

my enemy's enemy is my friend

A phrase highlighting how a common enemy can be a unifying force for otherwise disparate groups or people. I didn't want to work with that organization until I realized that we all wanted to keep the same candidate out of the White House. That's when I realized that my enemy's enemy is my friend.
See also: enemy, friend

no plan survives contact with the enemy

Military plans always need to be changed once they are enacted in real-life military situations. The saying emphasizes the need for flexibility, as opposed to strict adherence to strategy. It is attributed to Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, a 19th-century Prussian field marshal. Men, be ready to make changes on the battlefield—we all know that no plan survives contact with the enemy.
See also: contact, enemy, plan, survive

the enemy of my enemy is my friend

A phrase highlighting how a common enemy can be a unifying force for otherwise disparate groups or people. I didn't want to work with that organization until I realized that we all wanted to keep the same candidate out of office. That's when I realized that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
See also: enemy, friend, of

be (one's) own worst enemy

To do things that complicate one's life and/or keep one from success; to be self-destructive or self-sabotaging. Of course Tommy started skipping school again—he's his own worst enemy. She always sabotages a relationship when it's going really well because she's her own worst enemy.
See also: enemy, own, worst

best is the enemy of (the) good

To allow the demand, desire, or insistence for perfection decreases the chances of obtaining a good or favorable result in the end. I know you want your research paper to be great, but remember that best is the enemy of good. I mean, you'll fail if you don't even finish it in time! As a manager, you have to realize both the potential and the limits of your employees. Keep in mind that best is the enemy of the good.
See also: enemy, good, of

I wouldn't wish (something) on my worst enemy

The thing being discussed is so bad that no one deserves to be subjected to it, not even a person I hate. I wouldn't wish cancer on my worst enemy. No one should have to go through that. That's the worst class I've ever taken. I wouldn't wish that professor on my worst enemy. Buffering videos are truly the worst. I wouldn't wish them on my worst enemy.
See also: enemy, on, wish, worst

public enemy number one

A person or concept that is despised or disapproved of by a large portion of the population. The pharmaceutical executive became public enemy number one almost overnight with his decision to hike the price of a heretofore inexpensive but lifesaving drug by nearly 5,000%. The newly elected prime minister has stated that the homelessness crisis would be considered public enemy number one under her administration.
See also: enemy, number, one, public

With friends like that, who needs enemies?

A humorous statement indicating that the behavior of one's friend(s) has been harmful or malevolent, i.e. behavior one would associate with an enemy rather than a friend. A: "My friends ditched me again, so I had to find a ride home." B: "With friends like that, who needs enemies?"
See also: friend, like, needs, who

(one's) own worst enemy

Causing complications to one's life and/or keeping oneself from success; self-destructive or self-sabotaging. Tommy's becoming his own worst enemy, with the way he's been skipping school lately. She always sabotages a relationship when it's going really well because she's her own worst enemy.
See also: enemy, own, worst

best is the enemy of the good

Prov. If you are too ambitious and try to make something better than you are capable of, you may ruin it. Bob: After I revise it a few more times, my novel will be the best ever written. Alan: I don't think you should revise it any more. Remember, the best is the enemy of the good. In fundraising as in other areas, the best is the enemy of the good. If you ask someone for a larger contribution than he can possibly give, he may give you nothing at all.
See also: enemy, good, of

The good is the enemy of the best.

Prov. Instead of making things the best that they can, people often settle for making them merely good. Mother: Aren't you going to rewrite your paper? Child: Why? It's good enough. Mother: The good is the enemy of the best.
See also: enemy, good, of

I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.

 and I wouldn't wish that on a dog.
Fig. I would not wish that to happen to even the worst or lowliest person. A skunk sprayed him! I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. What a hideous disease! I wouldn't wish that on a dog.
See also: enemy, on, that, wish, worst

*one's own worst enemy

Fig. consistently causing oneself to fail; more harmful to oneself than other people are. (*Typically: be ~; become ~.) Ellen: My boss is my enemy. She never says anything good about me. Jane: Ellen, you're your own worst enemy. If you did your job responsibly, your boss would be nicer.
See also: enemy, own, worst

your own worst enemy

COMMON If you say that someone is their own worst enemy, you mean that their own behaviour causes most of their problems. In a way I'm my own worst enemy — too critical and hard on myself. The patients are their own worst enemy. They keep missing appointments.
See also: enemy, own, worst

be your own worst enemy

act contrary to your own interests; be self-destructive.
1993 Richard Lowe & William Shaw Travellers We convinced ourselves that everything was against us but the truth was we were probably our own worst enemies.
See also: enemy, own, worst

public enemy number one

1 a notorious wanted criminal. 2 a person or thing regarded as the greatest threat to a group or community.
2 1995 Independent So foods that pile on the pounds are seen as Public Enemy Number One.
See also: enemy, number, one, public

public ˌenemy number ˈone

a person or a thing that is thought to be the greatest threat to a group or community: Genetically modified foods have replaced nuclear power as public enemy number one.The gangster Kline became America’s public enemy number one during the Depression.
See also: enemy, number, one, public

wouldn’t wish something on my, etc. worst ˈenemy

(informal) used for saying that something is so unpleasant, painful, etc. that you would not like anyone to experience it: It’s a terrible job — it’s dirty, noisy and boring. I wouldn’t wish a job like that on my worst enemy.
See also: enemy, on, something, wish, worst

be your ˌown worst ˈenemy

be a person who often creates problems or difficulties for himself/herself: He spends all his money on clothes, and then finds that he’s got nothing left to live on — if you ask me, he’s his own worst enemy.
See also: enemy, own, worst
References in classic literature ?
In this time the enemy began to undermine our fort, which was situated sixty yards from Kentucke river.
We killed of the enemy thirty-seven, and wounded a great number.
The assassins comprehended that if they fled toward the camp without having killed their man, they should be accused by him; therefore their first idea was to join the enemy.
And with a light step, an eye on the watch, observing the movements of the enemy and taking advantage of the accidents of the ground, D'Artagnan succeeded in reaching the second soldier.
They were breath- lessly intent upon keeping the ground and thrust- ing away the rejoicing body of the enemy.
The enemy was marching upon Lens, with the intention, doubtless, of securing possession of that town and separating from France the army of France.
To-morrow, according to all probability, we shall attack the enemy.
By this time they were moving at high speed so that they presented a difficult target for the enemy.
From my position on the deck beside Kantos Kan I saw ship after ship of the enemy take the awful, sickening dive which proclaims its total destruction.
Finally they set out upon a determined search of the forest, but the blacks melted before them, so that they saw no sign of an enemy.
But worse than all else was the hideous fact that not once during the morning had they seen or heard the slightest sign of an enemy other than the pitiless arrows.
Magnified by its lift against the sky and by the soldier's testifying sense of the formidableness of a near enemy, the group appeared of heroic, almost colossal, size.
And in what sort of actions or with a view to what result is the just man most able to do harm to his enemy and good to his friends?
Your enemy shall ye seek; your war shall ye wage, and for the sake of your thoughts
But when he saw the signs of a truce, though deeply practised in the treachery of savage combats, he disdained to show a less manly reliance on himself, than that which his enemy had seen fit to exhibit.