fingernail

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cling on by (one's) fingernails

1. Literally, to grasp something, such as a cliff, with one's fingernails to avoid falling. The stranded hiker was clinging on by her fingernails until the rescue crew arrived.
2. By extension, to narrowly avoid problems or failure. They're clinging on by their fingernails out there—the other team's offensive is totally overwhelming them. Now that I have three small children to care for, I feel as if I'm clinging on by my fingernails every day.
See also: cling, fingernail, on

hang on by (one's) fingernails

1. Literally, to grasp something, such as a cliff, with one's fingernails to avoid falling. The stranded hiker was hanging on by her fingernails until the rescue crew arrived.
2. By extension, to narrowly avoid problems or failure. They're hanging on by their fingernails out there—the other team's offensive is totally overwhelming them. Now that I have three small children to care for, I feel as if I'm hanging on by my fingernails every day.
See also: fingernail, hang, on

be hanging on by your fingertips

or

be hanging on by your fingernails

If you are hanging on by your fingertips or hanging on by your fingernails, you are only just managing to survive or to stay in the position you want. There are firms already hanging on by their fingertips who will not be able to take these extra costs. Real Madrid's poor start to the season has left coach Benito Floro hanging on to his job by his fingernails. Note: The verb cling is sometimes used instead of hang. The minister is said to be clinging on by his fingernails since the scandal. Note: You can also say that someone has a fingertip hold on something. A Bolton own goal early in the second half gave Liverpool the fingertip hold they needed to retain their grasp of the FA Cup.
See also: fingertip, hanging, on

bite your ˈnails/ˈfingernails

feel very excited, nervous, or afraid ▶ ˈnail-biting adj. very exciting or tense: What an exciting movie that was — real nail-biting stuff!
See also: bite, fingernail, nail