sword of Damocles


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Related to sword of Damocles: Gordian knot

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

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 periodicals archive ?
We can no longer permit such resolutions to hang like the sword of Damocles in Turkish-U.
Defining events of 2000: The big question mark, or perhaps Sword of Damocles would be a better description, is Y2K hanging over all of us, and the subsequent wave or avalanche or, hopefully, only a trickle of litigation, especially in the United States.
With so many taxes hanging like the Sword of Damocles on the tax payer's neck, many are looking for every method to evade paying taxes.
Absent reasonable guidance, section 7701(l) will hang over taxpayers like a sword of Damocles, threatening to crash down on sound, as well as abusive, arrangements.
When you are a member of the Politburo, your personal physician is obliged to examine you every day, but a lack of professional and personal freedom hangs over him like a sword of Damocles.
Do you want that Sword of Damocles hanging over you?
It's been hanging over them like the sword of Damocles ever since, and Mackay even had to issue a grovelling sword of Damocles since, and Follow Andy Gilpin Twitter @gilpin_or email sportsdesk@ even had to issue a dailypost.
Sterling's bull market is eroded by a rise in US Treasury-gilt spreads, slightly less robust animal spirits on the High Street and the $15 billion litigation sword of Damocles on the sceptered isle's City banking crown jewels.
However, for the owner of capital, embracing the popular view is akin to the sword of Damocles.
Constantly when we went through the collaboration agenda, the Sword of Damocles was hanging over the collaboration agenda - namely that there was always the threat of reorganisation in the background," he said.
They have the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads.
THE Sword of Damocles hangs over the government as states mount pressure on the human resource development ( HRD) ministry to extend the deadline to meet standards under the Right to Education ( RTE) Act.
The Sword of Damocles is poised over at least a couple, though, so it's hardly time for complacency.
It is not true to revive historical issues like the sword of Damocles swinging on Turkish-U.
THE Sword of Damocles hangs over the well-groomed heads of the bookmaking industry today as three winning favourites at Ascot could inflict a disaster of biblical proportions.