sink or swim


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

sink or swim

Fig. to fail or succeed. (Alludes to the choices available to someone who has fallen into the water.) After I've studied and learned all I can, I have to take the test and sink or swim. It's too late to help John now. It's sink or swim for him.
See also: sink, swim

sink or swim

Succumb or succeed, no matter what, as in Now that we've bought the farm, we'll have to make a go of it, sink or swim. This expression alludes to the former barbaric practice of throwing a suspected witch into deep water, often weighted down. In case of sinking, the victim died; in case of swimming, the victim was considered in league with the devil and therefore was executed. A related idiom, float or sink, was used by Chaucer in the late 1300s; Shakespeare had the current form in 1 Henry IV (1:3): "Or sink or swim."
See also: sink, swim

sink or swim

If someone has to sink or swim, they have to try to succeed on their own, and whether they succeed or fail depends completely on their own efforts and abilities. After three years of teaching and support at music college, musicians are left to sink or swim in the profession. Note: You can use sink-or-swim before a noun. Tomorrow afternoon, it's sink-or-swim time, her first game.
See also: sink, swim

sink or swim

fail or succeed entirely by your own efforts.
See also: sink, swim

ˌsink or ˈswim

(saying) be in a situation where you will either succeed without help from other people, or fail completely: The government refused to give the company any help, and just left it to sink or swim.
See also: sink, swim

sink or swim

Informal
To fail or succeed without alternative.
See also: sink, swim
References in periodicals archive ?
In the face of increasing global attention on climate change and rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Indian Ocean tsunami, Superstorm Sandy, and the Tohuko tsunami, Sink or Swim is a timely examination of resiliency strategies in architecture and design.
Throughout the month, Juba will also publish information about Sink or Swim, which is available in trade paperback from Mainly Murder Press and in multiple e-book editions, as well as excerpts from the book.
The Cleveland Coatings Society and The University of Akron will co-sponsor the 51st Annual Technical Symposium, "Waterborne and Innovative Coatings: Sink or Swim 2008.
The driver jumped out seconds before the car plunged into the water - leaving his blonde passenger to sink or swim.
Doesn't matter who's who, neither to the feckless deity who decides which of them will sink or swim nor to anybody watching, because once the ship flips, character development ends and has virtually no impact on events anyway.
DESCRIBED as "an insanely comic tale" of three men's maddening struggles at sea, Sink or Swim comes to the PLayhouse Studio this month.
Business superstars, intellectual juggernauts, silicon valley's top brass, and tomorrow's venture capitalists to determine who sinks, swims, and who merely floats in the Sink or Swim business plan contest.