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1. Literally, the highest level a body of water has reached, or the mark designating such a point. Due to climate change, the high-water mark on this beach has been getting higher every year.
2. The apex, peak, or highest point of something. The high-water mark of the country's economic boom was in 2007.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
The peak of something, especially an achievement. For example, This composition is the high-water mark of his entire output. This expression alludes to the highest mark left on shore by the tide. [Mid-1800s]
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.
high-ˈwater markthe highest stage of achievement: This was the high-water mark of the ancient Greek civilization.
This refers to the highest mark left by the sea on the land or by a river when it floods.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
The acme of achievement. The term alludes to the mark left when a body of water reaches its highest level, as in a flood. By the early nineteenth century it had been transferred to the peak of other events or accomplishments, as in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s statement in 1856, about William Wordsworth: “‘The Ode on Immortality’ is the high-water mark which the intellect has reached in this age.”
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer