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1. A narrow escape from or avoidance of a situation, often an unfavorable or dangerous one. It was a close call, but I managed to avoid hitting the deer that ran directly in front of my car.
2. A decision or judgment that is difficult to make due to each possibility being nearly equal in one's consideration. I'm sorry, it really was a close call, but we've decided to go with another candidate for this position.
3. A contest or competition whose winner is not clear due to very close competition or results that are difficult to distinguish. With the two candidates having nearly equal amounts of delegates, this election is going to be a very close call.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
Also, close shave. Narrow escape, near miss. For example, That skier just missed the tree-what a close call, or That was a close shave, nearly leaving your passport behind. The first phrase dates from the late 1800s and comes from sports, alluding to an official's decision ( call) that could have gone either way. The second, from the early 1800s, alludes to the narrow margin between closely shaved skin and a razor cut. (This latter usage replaced the much earlier equation of a close shave with miserliness, based on the idea that a close shave by a barber meant one would not have to spend money on another shave quite so soon.) Also see too close for comfort.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
a close callor
a close thing
COMMON If you describe an event as a close call or a close thing, you mean that someone very nearly had an accident or disaster, or very nearly suffered a defeat. `That was a close call,' said Bess, as the boat steadied. It was a close thing and, looking back now, I have no doubt that if my friend hadn't acted so promptly, I'd be dead.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
a ˌclose ˈshave/ˈcall(informal) a situation where a disaster, an accident, etc. almost happens: We didn’t actually hit the other car, but it was a close shave. ♢ Phew! That was a close call — she nearly saw us!
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
See close shave
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
close call/shave, a
A narrow escape, a near miss. Both phrases are originally American. The first dates from the 1880s and is thought to come from sports, where a close call was a decision by an umpire or referee that could have gone either way. A close shave is from the early nineteenth century and reflects the narrow margin between smoothly shaved skin and a nasty cut from the razor. Both were transferred to mean any narrow escape from danger. Incidentally, a close shave was in much earlier days equated with miserliness. Erasmus’s 1523 collection of adages has it, “He shaves right to the quick,” meaning he makes the barber give him a very close shave so that he will not need another for some time. Two synonymous modern clichés are too close for comfort and too close to home.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer