by a hair

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Related to hairbreadth: hair's breadth, hairsbreadth

by a hair

By an extremely short or slim margin (of distance, time, or another measure). They're just about to close the gates! It looks like we made the flight by a hair. The race was neck and neck till the very end, but Sally won it by a hair.
See also: by, hair
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

by a hair('s breadth)

 and by a whisker
Fig. just barely; by a very small distance. I just missed getting on the plane by a hair's breadth. I made it onto the last flight by a hair!
See also: by, hair
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

by a hair

Also, by a hairbreadth or whisker . Very narrowly. For example, His serve was out by a hair, or We made our flight by a hairbreadth, or Dad missed hitting the pole by a whisker. The first two hyperboles for the very narrowest margin date from the 1300s and 1400s respectively; whisker meaning "a small amount" was first recorded in 1913. Also see by the skin of one's teeth; hang by a hair.
See also: by, hair
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.

by a hair/whisker

Very narrowly, by a very small distance or amount. For example, “He missed sideswiping that car by a hair,” or “That ball was in, but just by a whisker.” Both versions of this cliché allude to the fineness of a single hair. The first, also put as by a hairbreadth, dates from the fourteenth century, whereas the second originated in early twentieth-century America.
See also: by, hair, whisker
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in periodicals archive ?
The result is just a hairbreadth away from Wacky Packages--dorky Mad Magazine-esque product parody stickers--only with adult sexuality.
During a series of high-speed chases and hairbreadth escapes, Sara (AnnaSophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig) gradually reveal themselves as extraterrestrial visitors who fell to earth aboard the UFO, which was seized by Burke's team and moved to a super-secret U.S.
He adds that with the help of God they would not succeed in forcing him to stray even by a hairbreadth from Mosaic and Talmudic law.
dollar hovered in a hairbreadth range of about 0.20 yen in the morning, amid a dearth of fresh market-moving incentives.
Having seen my wife escape death by a hairbreadth on that day in Karachi, I lost her in a second, unfortunately successful, attempt two months later.
When Clinton came within a hairbreadth of winning the popular vote, but the superdelegates went in a wave with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's recommendations rather than their constituents', I was beyond disappointed.
What follows is a series of adventures, culminating in a hairbreadth escape for Renard after he once again dupes his archnemesis Ysengrin.
In fact, Johnny's buck came within a hairbreadth of becoming the largest typical whitetail ever taken!
In 1983, the nations came within a hairbreadth of nuclear war, but the Chernobyl explosion changed everything.
The latest survey carried out for the Electoral Commission shows that people agree by a margin of 4 to 1 that devolution has improved the way Wales is run - a massive turnaround from the hairbreadth majority of 1997.
Doing it seemed to taunt disaster, as leaning a hairbreadth too far in either direction could be curtains for him.
As Titus points out, the biography is pertinent because "throughout Porter's texts, the fictive 'she' is always a hairbreadth away from the 'I'" (182).
The artist chronicled the ups and downs of U of Washington football from 1960 to 1982 in his biweekly "Hairbreadth Husky" sports cartoons.
McCausland had a 33-year career at the Post-Intelligencer, where his Hairbreadth Husky - with a bandaged nose and fedora - chronicled the ups and downs of University of Washington football from 1960 to 1982.