cling on by (one's) fingernails

(redirected from clinging on by their fingernails)

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: by, cling, fingernail, on
References in periodicals archive ?
Avram Grant's West Ham are clinging on by their fingernails, but I fancy Wigan to put them out of their misery.
But they finished clinging on by their fingernails as Gills fought to keep an unbeaten 1997 record.