matter of life and death


Also found in: Wikipedia.

matter of life and death

Something that is gravely serious. This top-secret project is a matter of life and death, so every bit of information in it needs to be accurate. I'm a nurse, so if I make a mistake at my job, it's a matter of life and death.
See also: and, death, life, matter, of

matter of life and death

Cliché an issue of great urgency; an issue that will decide between living and dying. We must find a doctor. It's a matter of life and death. A matter of life and death demands that I return home at once.
See also: and, death, life, matter, of

matter of life and death, a

A very urgent issue, situation, or circumstance. This expression can be used either literally, as in She told the doctor to hurry as it was a matter of life and death, or hyperbolically, as in Don't worry about finishing on time-it's hardly a matter of life and death. First recorded in 1849, it alludes to such urgency that someone's life depends on it. Although a matter of life or death would make more sense, it is rarely put that way.
See also: and, life, matter, of

a matter of life and death

or

a matter of life or death

COMMON If something is a matter of life and death or a matter of life or death, it is extremely important, often because someone could die or suffer great harm if something is not done. 24-hour care can actually be a matter of life and death for premature babies. Please, keep your voice down and just do what I say. This is a matter of life or death. Note: People say that something is not a matter of life and death to say that it is not very important, especially when someone else is acting as if it is. Well, never mind, John, it's not a matter of life and death. Note: People use life-and-death before nouns to describe a situation that is extremely serious or dangerous. We're dealing with a life-and-death situation here.
See also: and, death, life, matter, of

a matter of life and death

a matter of vital importance.
See also: and, death, life, matter, of
References in periodicals archive ?
Everything that pretends to be a matter of life and death but isn't revealed itself.