a fine line

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a fine line

A very narrow division between two deceptively similar things, one of which is worse than the other. As a new parent, you learn that there's a fine line between looking out for your child's welfare and being overprotective. A: "I only borrowed your sweater, I swear!" B: "Well, it's a fine line between borrowing and stealing, isn't it?" The film treads a fine line between parody and homage.
See also: fine, line
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

a fine line between something

COMMON If there is a fine line between two different activities or situations, there is a point at which they are very similar, often when one activity or situation is acceptable, and the other is not. There is a fine line between being nicely looked after and being fussed over too much. A new exhibition explores the fine line between genius and insanity. Note: You can also talk about a thin line between two things or a narrow line between two things. There is a thin line between being a good player and being one of the best. There's a narrow line between being interested and being nosy. Compare with walk a fine line between something.
See also: between, fine, line, something
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
See also:
References in classic literature ?
If you love Latin, I will repeat you some fine lines out of Horace, which would inspire courage into a coward.
The fine lines of the Mary Turner were explained by the fact that she had been built for seal-hunting; and for the same reason on board of her was room and to spare.
From his high perch, one sees before him and below him, a wall of dreary mountains, shorn of vegetation, glaring fiercely in the sun; it fences in a level desert of yellow sand, smooth as velvet and threaded far away with fine lines that stand for roads, and dotted with creeping mites we know are camel-trains and journeying men; right in the midst of the desert is spread a billowy expanse of green foliage; and nestling in its heart sits the great white city, like an island of pearls and opals gleaming out of a sea of emeralds.
Hence I think there is not much difficulty in understanding the ascent of the fine lines projected from a spider's spinners, and afterwards of the spider itself; the divergence of the lines has been attempted to be explained, I believe by Mr.
Early in the morning, while all things are crisp with frost, men come with fishing-reels and slender lunch, and let down their fine lines through the snowy field to take pickerel and perch; wild men, who instinctively follow other fashions and trust other authorities than their townsmen, and by their goings and comings stitch towns together in parts where else they would be ripped.
The vicious cruelty that marred the fine lines of the mouth had, no doubt, appeared at the very moment that the girl had drunk the poison, whatever it was.
"Never!" All the supremely refined delicacy of tenderness, expressed in so many fine lines of verse by Carleon Anthony, grew to the size of a passion filling with inward sobs the big frame of the man who had never in his life read a single one of those famous sonnets singing of the most highly civilized, chivalrous love, of those sonnets which .
Putting his broad shoulders against it, he stood as if at bay; he was a comparatively young man, with fine lines in his lean face and figure and a mop of ragged red hair.
At close quarters the rouged cheekbones, the wrinkles, the fine lines on each side of the vivid lips, astounded him.
"That's a fine line," he said at last, indicating with his thumb what pleased him.
Stating that she prefers being a 43-year-old woman with grey hair and fine lines, the actor said, "I just feel like I earned that grey hair and my fine lines.
It promises to reduce signs of ageing, fine lines and wrinkles and improve skin tone and dark spots.
It promises to reduce signs of aging, fine lines and wrinkles and improve skin tone and dark spots.
has patented a method to reduce fine lines and/or wrinkles in human skin.
The SPGPrints rotary screen specializes in creating fine lines and sharp letters down to a four-point font.