sink or swim

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sink or swim

1. verb To either be successful right away or succumb to failure. The teacher expects you to have all the background material already learned, so you'll have to sink or swim the moment you start the course.
2. noun A situation in which one must either be successful right away or succumb to failure. In such a competitive business, it's always sink or swim for new companies looking to enter the market.
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sink or swim

Fig. to fail or succeed. (Alludes to the choices available to someone who has fallen into the water.) After I've studied and learned all I can, I have to take the test and sink or swim. It's too late to help John now. It's sink or swim for him.
See also: sink, swim

sink or swim

Succumb or succeed, no matter what, as in Now that we've bought the farm, we'll have to make a go of it, sink or swim. This expression alludes to the former barbaric practice of throwing a suspected witch into deep water, often weighted down. In case of sinking, the victim died; in case of swimming, the victim was considered in league with the devil and therefore was executed. A related idiom, float or sink, was used by Chaucer in the late 1300s; Shakespeare had the current form in 1 Henry IV (1:3): "Or sink or swim."
See also: sink, swim

sink or swim

If someone has to sink or swim, they have to try to succeed on their own, and whether they succeed or fail depends completely on their own efforts and abilities. After three years of teaching and support at music college, musicians are left to sink or swim in the profession. Note: You can use sink-or-swim before a noun. Tomorrow afternoon, it's sink-or-swim time, her first game.
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sink or swim

fail or succeed entirely by your own efforts.
See also: sink, swim

ˌsink or ˈswim

(saying) be in a situation where you will either succeed without help from other people, or fail completely: The government refused to give the company any help, and just left it to sink or swim.
See also: sink, swim

sink or swim

Informal
To fail or succeed without alternative.
See also: sink, swim
References in periodicals archive ?
Those who fail the sink-or-swim test are punished by Mike sprinting away as fast as he can.
It should be a sink-or-swim time for the new regime.
Millions of our teenage youth are being left behind every day, unprepared to study further or secure good jobs in our sink-or-swim economy," adds Jobs for the Future CEO Marlene Seltzer.
That kind of sink-or-swim ethic is prized by outside recruiters, who see it as the bank's strong suit: self-reliant people.
I did that all the time; and because I have a sink-or-swim mentality, I always managed to swim.