endanger

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endangered species

1. Literally, a species that is in danger of becoming extinct. Once an endangered species, these majestic creatures have made a great comeback with the help of preservation efforts.
2. By extension, something that is already very rare or could soon become rare. I worry that this type of work will soon be an endangered species if funding keeps getting cut.
See also: endanger, species
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

endangered species

A group threatened with extinction or destruction. For example, Workers willing to put in overtime without extra pay are an endangered species, or With the new budget cuts, public television has become an endangered species. This expression, originally referring to species of plants or animals in danger of dying out, began in the 1980s to be extended to anything or anyone becoming rare.
See also: endanger, species
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.

an endangered species

If you describe something as an endangered species, you mean that there are not many of them left. Business class is in danger of becoming an endangered species, except on long flights. Bassoons, oboes and the big brass instruments are endangered species because children do not want to play them. Note: This expression comes from the literal meaning of a plant or animal that is likely to die out soon.
See also: endanger, species
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
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References in classic literature ?
Should a surge throw the canoe upon its side and endanger its overturn, those to windward lean over the upper gunwale, thrust their paddles deep into the wave, apparently catch the water and force it under the canoe, and by this action not merely regain III an equilibrium, but give their bark a vigorous impulse forward.
These great palm-leaves, for which I have endangered my life seven times, must serve us as wings."
``Holy father!'' said the Jew, ``whom could it interest to endanger so poor a wretch as I am?''
When we came to Pampeluna itself, we found it so indeed; and to me, that had been always used to a hot climate, and to countries where I could scarce bear any clothes on, the cold was insufferable; nor, indeed, was it more painful than surprising to come but ten days before out of Old Castile, where the weather was not only warm but very hot, and immediately to feel a wind from the Pyrenean Mountains so very keen, so severely cold, as to be intolerable and to endanger benumbing and perishing of our fingers and toes.
Emma was gratified, to observe such a proof in her of strengthened character, and refrained from any allusion that might endanger its maintenance.
He had returned when he did, on the pressing and written entreaty of a French citizen, who represented that his life was endangered by his absence.