by the skin of one's teeth


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by the skin of (one's) teeth

Barely. Often used to describe something that almost didn't happen. Oh man, my car wouldn't start this morning—I just made it here by the skin of my teeth!
See also: by, of, skin, teeth

by the skin of one's teeth

Just barely, very narrowly, as in Doug passed the exam by the skin of his teeth. A related term appears in the Bible (Job 19:20), where Job says, "I am escaped with the skin of my teeth," presumably meaning he got away with nothing at all. Today the phrase using by is used most often to describe a narrow escape. [c. 1600] Also see squeak through.
See also: by, of, skin, teeth

by the skin of one's teeth

Just barely. The term comes from the Book of Job (19:20), in which Job tells Bildad of his troubles. He says, “My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth,” meaning that hardly anything is left of his body. The expression still is used almost exclusively to mean a narrow escape. However, Thornton Wilder used it as the title of a play, The Skin of Our Teeth, an allegory of how mankind survives that won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1943.
See also: by, of, skin, teeth
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