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1. A tendency or inclination to do something particularly dangerous, such that one's life may be put in jeopardy as a result. No one can see you walking along this busy street in the dark! Have you got a death wish or something? Some cyclist with a death wish started weaving in and out of cars right in the middle of rush-hour traffic. You'd have to have a death wish to want to get behind the wheel of such a broken-down old car.
2. A tendency or inclination to act in a reckless or foolish manner that could bring about one's ruin or failure. The politician must have a death wish if she intends to uphold such a controversial stance.
3. A desire for someone to die or fail. The actor expressed a death wish for the TV character that made him famous—and to which he's been inexorably linked for nearly two decades. With the way he's blowing money on such ridiculous technology, he seems like a CEO with a death wish for his own company.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
A desire, either conscious or, most often, unconscious, to die or to ruin oneself. The term dates from the late 1800s and originally was a translation from the German psychological term, Todeswunsch. By the 1930s it was being used figuratively, as in a 1947 article in the Partisan Review: “Even in America the death-wish of the business community appears to go beyond the normal limits of political incompetence and geographical security.”
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer