by a hair(redirected from hairbreadth)
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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.
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!
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.
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.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer