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be put to the sword

To be slain or executed, especially in or as a consequence of war. Scores of villagers were put to the sword by the merciless invaders, and those who survived were left with a ravaged, empty township.
See also: put, sword

put (someone) to the sword

To slay or execute someone, especially in or as a consequence of war. These prisoners will be shown no mercy: we shall put them to the sword before sunrise.
See also: put, sword


Of film, to features the exploits and adventures of ancient and biblical figures, as was prominent in Italy in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Sword-and-sandal films dominated cinemas for a period after the second World War, but they were quashed halfway through the sixties by the Spaghetti Western.

those who live by the sword, die by the sword

1. Those who choose a path of violence against others should expect to have violence and harm visited upon themselves. (Often shortened to "live by the sword, die by the sword.") The young men of this city getting caught up in gang violence have the shortest lifespans of anyone in the state. True enough, those who live by the sword, die by the sword.
2. If you rely upon a certain means of doing something, especially that which is illegal, illicit, or harmful to others, you are likely to have a negative outcome as a result thereof. (Often shortened to "live by the sword, die by the sword.") For years, the senator took bribes and skimmed profits from kickbacks all over his state, until finally the FBI launched a sting against him that ended up putting him away for life. Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.
See also: die, live, sword, those, who

double edged sword

Something that can be both positive and negative. Intelligence is a double edged sword. Things may come easy to you, but people will always expect more. This meeting is a double-edged sword—it's a great chance to get the firm wider exposure, but we're just not prepared enough for it.
See also: double, edge, sword

cross swords (with someone)

Fig. to become the adversary of someone. Gloria loved an argument and was looking forward to crossing swords with Sally.
See also: cross, sword

fall on one's sword

1. Lit. to fall down and be penetrated by one's own sword, accidentally or on purpose. He tripped and fell on his sword.
2. Fig. to accept defeat; to go to extremes to indicate one's defeat. (From the ancient practice of a military commander committing suicide this way rather than being captured.) So, because I lost the contract, I am supposed to fall on my sword or something?
See also: fall, sword

hang something up

to return the telephone receiver to its cradle. (See also hang it up.) Please hang this up when I pick up the other phone. Please hang up the phone.
See also: hang, up

hang up

1. [for a machine or a computer] to grind to a halt; to stop because of some internal complication. Our computer hung up right in the middle of printing the report. I was afraid that my computer would hang up permanently.
2. to replace the telephone receiver after a call; to terminate a telephone call. I said good-bye and hung up. Please hang up and place your call again.
See also: hang, up

hang up

 (on someone or something)
1. and hang up (in someone's ear) to end a telephone call by returning the receiver to the cradle while the other party is still talking. She hung up on me! I had to hang up on all that rude talk.
2. to give up on someone or something; to quit dealing with someone or something. Finally, I had to hang up on Jeff. I can't depend on him for anything. We hung up on them because we knew we couldn't make a deal.
See also: hang, up

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Prov. If you use violence against other people, you can expect to have violence used against you.; You can expect to become a victim of whatever means you use to get what you want. (Biblical.) The gang leader who organized so many murders was eventually murdered himself. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Bill liked to spread damaging gossip about other people, until he lost all his friends because of some gossip that was spread about him. Live by the sword, die by the sword.
See also: die, live, sword

pen is mightier than the sword

Prov. Eloquent writing persuades people better than military force. Believing that the pen is mightier than the sword, the rebels began publishing an underground newspaper. Alan: Why do you want to become a journalist? Bill: The pen is mightier than the sword.
See also: mighty, pen, sword

two-edged sword

 and double-edged sword
Fig. something that offers both a good and bad consequence. The ability to get your insurance to pay for it is a double-edged sword. They may raise your rates. Her authority in the company is a two-edged sword. She makes more enemies than allies.
See also: sword

hang up

to end a telephone connection I can't think of his name, but it'll come to me as soon as we hang up.
See also: hang, up

cross swords (with somebody)

(slightly formal)
to argue with someone The candidates crossed swords on several issues, including taxes, guns and immigration.
See also: cross, sword

cross swords with somebody

to argue with someone We don't always agree, in fact I've crossed swords with her several times at committee meetings.
See also: cross, sword

a double-edged sword

something that causes both advantages and problems His great intelligence was a real double-edged sword because he never felt he could communicate with ordinary people.
See also: sword

The pen is mightier than the sword.

something that you say which means thinking and writing have more influence on people and events than the use of force or violence Reason is our greatest weapon against such tyrants. The pen is mightier than the sword.
See also: mighty, pen, sword

a sword of Damocles hangs over somebody's head

  (literary) also a sword of Damocles hangs over somebody (literary)
if a sword of Damocles hangs over someone, they are in a situation where something bad is likely to happen to them very soon
Usage notes: This phrase comes from a story about Damocles who had to eat his food with a sword hanging over him which was tied up by a single hair.
You live with this sword of Damocles hanging over your head, knowing that you carry the virus for a deadly disease.
See also: Damocles, hang, head, of, sword

beat/turn swords into ploughshares

to stop preparing for war and to start using the money you previously spent on weapons to improve people's lives It would have been unrealistic to expect a country like the United States to turn swords into ploughshares the moment the Cold War ended.
See cross swords with
See also: beat, sword

at sword's point

Also, at swords' points. Antagonistic, hostile, as in Father and son were at swords' points. Dating from the days when swords were used to settle quarrels, the idiom today generally signifies only a bitter quarrel.
See also: point

cross swords

Fight, either verbally or physically. For example, At every policy meeting the two vice-presidents crossed swords. This phrase alludes to the ancient form of combat using swords. Also see at sword's point.
See also: cross, sword

hang up

1. Suspend on a hook or hanger, as in Let me hang up your coat for you. [c. 1300]
2. Also, hang up on. Replace a telephone receiver in its cradle; end a phone conversation. For example, She hung up the phone, or He hung up on her. [Early 1900s]
3. Delay or hinder; also, become halted or snagged, as in Budget problems hung up the project for months, or Traffic was hung up for miles. [Second half of 1800s]
4. Have or cause to have emotional difficulties, as in Being robbed at gunpoint can hang one up for years to come. [Slang; early 1900s]
5. hung up on. Obsessed with, as in For years the FBI was hung up on Communist spies. [First half of 1900s]
6. hang up one's sword or gloves or fiddle . Quit, retire, as in He's hanging up his sword next year and moving to Florida. The noun in these expressions refers to the profession one is leaving- sword for the military, gloves for boxing, and fiddle for music-but they all are used quite loosely as well, as in the example.
7. hang up one's hat. Settle somewhere, reside, as in "Eight hundred a year, and as nice a house as any gentleman could wish to hang up his hat in" (Anthony Trollope, The Warden, 1855).
See also: hang, up

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

hang up

1. To suspend something on a hook or hanger: Please hang your jacket up in the closet. I hung up my bathrobe on the hook.
2. To replace a telephone receiver on its base or cradle: I hung up the phone and returned to my chores. Will you hang that phone up and get back to your homework?
3. To end a telephone conversation: I said goodbye to my mother and hung up.
4. To delay or impede something; hinder something: Budget problems hung up the project for months. Squabbling hung the contract talks up for weeks.
5. To become snagged or hindered: The fishing line hung up on a rock.
6. To stop doing or participating in some activity: They are planning to hang up their law practice after 40 years. Trying to find your keys in the snow is a lost cause—you might as well hang it up.
7. Slang To have emotional difficulties or inhibitions. Used passively: If you weren't so hung up about your job, you'd be more fun to be around.
8. Slang To be obsessed or consumed with something. Used passively: I'm still hung up on that sale I missed last week.
See also: hang, up

hang up

1. n. a problem or concern; an obsession. (Usually hang-up.) She’s got some serious hang-ups about cats.
2. in. to say no; to cancel out of something. If you don’t want to do it, just hang up. I’ll understand.
See also: hang, up

sword swallowing

n. fellatio. The headmaster caught him in an act of sword swallowing.
See also: swallow, sword

cross swords

To quarrel or fight.
See also: cross, sword

at swords' points

Ready for a fight.
See also: point

put to the sword

To kill; slay.
See also: put, sword

fall on one's sword

To resign in a way to accept responsibility for a mistake. In the era when warriors carried swords and shields, a soldier who was guilty of cowardice or another serious breach of military procedure was expected to do the “honorable thing” by taking his own life. He needed no assistance: he placed his sword's hilt on the ground and, resting the sharpened tip against his bare midsection, fell forward. Although the accepted mode of remorse was a pistol bullet to the brain in the age of firearms, the phrase remained. It is now used metaphorically: a political figure or business executive whose resignation is an expression of regret for a badly made decision will be said to have fallen on his (or her) sword.
See also: fall, 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 classic literature ?
At the end of ten seconds each man had struck twelve or fifteen blows, and warded off twelve or fifteen, and no harm done; then a sword became disabled, and a short rest followed whilst a new one was brought.
You will see presently," said Agrajes,'" replied Don Quixote; and throwing his lance on the ground he drew his sword, braced his buckler on his arm, and attacked the Biscayan, bent upon taking his life.
So the friar knight got him up gravely, though his eyes twinkled with a cunning light, and laid aside his beloved pie and his cloak and his sword and his buckler, and waded across the stream with waddling dignity.
D'Artagnan, seeing him approach, drew his sword a foot out of the scabbard.
Olivain," said Athos, showing the servant Raoul's shoulder-belt, "tighten the buckle of the sword, it falls too low.
He wiped his brow, streaming with sweat, and his sword, streaming with blood.
In the rapid fighting that followed I had little chance to note aught else than the movements of my immediate adversaries, but now and again I caught a fleeting glimpse of a purring sword and a lightly springing figure of sinewy steel that filled my heart with a strange yearning and a mighty but unaccountable pride.
Once the lone warrior caught an antagonist in the side with his hook, and drawing him close ran his sword through him.
So Robin took his sword again and buckled it at his side; then he bent his stout back and took the Friar upon it.
Few red men are good shots, for the sword is their chosen weapon; so now as the Dusarian drew bead upon the rising flier, and touched the button upon his rifle's stock, it was more to chance than proficiency that he owed the partial success of his aim.
The good Father Claude does not know Norman of Torn if he thinks he runs out the back door like an old woman because a sword looks in at the front door.
As the tongue was removed for the high priest's table, "Ah," said the Idol to himself, "that is the Sword of the Spirit - the only Sword that is less dangerous when unsheathed.
For example, by all their common and familiar performances--throwing large objects into the air which never come down; causing plants to sprout, grow visibly and blossom, in bare ground chosen by spectators; putting a man into a wicker basket, piercing him through and through with a sword while he shrieks and bleeds, and then--the basket being opened nothing is there; tossing the free end of a silken ladder into the air, mounting it and disappearing.
This gentleman hath a two-handed sword, a good foot longer than that of our friend.
And when matins and the first mass were done, there was seen in the churchyard, against the high altar, a great stone foursquare, like unto a marble stone, and in the midst thereof was like an anvil of steel a foot on high, and therein stuck a fair sword naked by the point, and letters there were written in gold about the sword that said thus:-- 'Whoso pulleth out this sword of the stone and anvil is rightwise king born of all England.