more dead than alive

more dead than alive

Fig. exhausted; in very bad condition; near death. (Almost always an exaggeration.) We arrived at the top of the mountain more dead than alive. The marathon runners stumbled one by one over the finish line, more dead than alive.
See also: alive, dead, more

more dead than alive

Exhausted, in poor condition, as in By the time I got off that mountain I was more dead than alive. This idiom may be used either hyperbolically or literally. [c. 1900]
See also: alive, dead, more
References in classic literature ?
Well, hardening my heart, and putting my diffidence into my ragged pocket, I approached Peter Petrovitch, and halted before him more dead than alive.
The cliffs were high and steep, but luckily for me some tree-roots protruded in places, and by their aid I climbed up at last, and stretched myself upon the turf at the top, where I lay, more dead than alive, till the sun was high in the heavens.
I ran into the morning-room, and there was your unfortunate housekeeper on the sofa, with all the women servants about her, more dead than alive.
They dragged themselves from the swamp singly, and in twos and threes, more dead than alive, mere perambulating skeletons, until at last there were thirty of us.
Frou-Frou, excited and over-nervous, had lost the first moment, and several horses had started before her, but before reaching the stream, Vronsky, who was holding in the mare with all his force as she tugged at the bridle, easily overtook three, and there were left in front of him Mahotin's chestnut Gladiator, whose hind-quarters were moving lightly and rhythmically up and down exactly in front of Vronsky, and in front of all, the dainty mare Diana bearing Kuzovlev more dead than alive.
He liked giving a painful lash on the neck to some peasant who, more dead than alive, was already hurrying out of his way.
I was wet and chilled to the marrow, till I felt more dead than alive.
They were two shrivelled, stunted, dried-up specimens of trees--two ghosts of palms--without foliage, and more dead than alive.
Off I go, staggering--back I come, more dead than alive.
When these attentions had recovered her (which they speedily did), he hustled her into a fast train without offering any other refreshment, and carried her back to Coketown more dead than alive.
With hands trembling with delight, Squeers unloosened the cord; and Smike, to all appearance more dead than alive, was brought into the house and securely locked up in a cellar, until such time as Mr Squeers should deem it expedient to operate upon him, in presence of the assembled school.
We landed, in fine, more dead than alive, after four days of intense distress, upon the beach opposite Roanoke Island.
High water came at three o'clock, and at three o'clock I drew myself up on the beach, more dead than alive, and too helpless to have offered any resistance had Yellow Handkerchief swooped down upon me.