hang by a thread


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Related to hang by a thread: hang onto, Hanging in the air

hang by a thread

1. Literally, to be attached only by single thread, strand, or something similar. If that button is only hanging by a thread, you're bound to lose it during the course of the day.
2. To be perilously close to failing, dying, or resulting in a bad outcome. After the loss, their chances of getting into the championships are hanging by a thread. Her life hung by a thread as medics rushed her to the hospital.
See also: by, hang, thread

hang by a thread

Also, hang by a hair. Be in a risky or unstable situation, as in His promotion was hanging by a thread, or With the lead actor sick, the success of our play hung by a hair. This expression, already proverbial in the early 1500s, alludes to Damocles, who vexed King Dionysius with constant flattery. The king invited him to a banquet where Damocles found himself seated under a naked sword suspended by a single hair, symbolizing his insecure position at the court.
See also: by, hang, thread

hang by a thread

1. If something hangs by a thread, it is very likely to fail, although it has not failed yet. It's clear that the ceasefire is hanging by a thread. England's World Cup hopes hang by a thread and they must now rely on the results of the others in their group going their way.
2. If someone's life hangs by a thread, they are seriously ill and are very likely to die. His kidneys had failed and his life was hanging by a thread. Note: This expression may relate to the story of the Sword of Damocles: see the explanation at `sword'.
See also: by, hang, thread

hang by a thread

be in a highly precarious state.
See also: by, hang, thread

hang by a ˈthread/ˈhair

be in a very uncertain situation: After the operation, his life hung by a thread for several hours.The future of this company hangs by a thread. Unless we get two or three big orders by the end of the month, we’re finished.
See also: by, hair, hang, thread

hang by a thread, to

To be in a precarious situation. This expression comes from the story of Damocles, a servile courtier to Dionysius I of Syracuse. Tired of hearing Damocles praise him to the skies, Dionysius invited him to a magnificent banquet. Seated there, Damocles looked up and saw a naked sword suspended over his head by a single hair, whereby the king intended to show his servant the insecurity of his position. By the sixteenth century the story had been converted into a proverb, “It hangs by a hair,” listed in Erasmus’s Adagia (1523), and in the course of time hair was changed to thread.
See also: by, hang