sink or swim

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sink or swim

1. verb To either be successful right away or succumb to failure. The teacher expects you to have all the background material already learned, so you'll have to sink or swim the moment you start the course.
2. noun A situation in which one must either be successful right away or succumb to failure. In such a competitive business, it's always sink or swim for new companies looking to enter the market.
See also: sink, swim
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

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
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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
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.

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
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

sink or swim

fail or succeed entirely by your own efforts.
See also: sink, swim
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

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
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

sink or swim

Informal
To fail or succeed without alternative.
See also: sink, swim
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

sink or swim

Succumb or survive; by extension, no matter what. This term alludes to the ancient practice of throwing a convicted witch (sometimes weighted down) into deep water. In case of sinking, the person drowned; in case of swimming, the person was considered in league with the devil and therefore was executed. Hence the outcome was the same. The term, which began life as float or sink, was already used by Chaucer in the fourteenth century. Shakespeare’s Hotspur said, “Or sink or swim” (Henry IV, Part 1, 1.3), and across the Atlantic, John Adams said, “Swim or sink, live or die, survive or perish with my country was my unalterable determination” (in a conversation with Jonathan Sewall, 1774).
See also: sink, swim
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in periodicals archive ?
SCOTT ALLAN swears he's ready to take the Premiership by storm next term thanks to a sink-or-swim stint at crisis club Portsmouth.
Summary: Michael Clarke faces a "sink-or-swim" challenge when he takes over from the injured Ricky Ponting as Australia captain in the Sydney Test.
Crossing our fingers, waiting for growth and hoping it will go away is simply not an answer" The Prime Minister on the country's economic problems "Our collective memory of difficult budget decisions harks back to the 1980s, the harshness of the 1980s, north-south divide, sink-or-swim economics.
Those who fail the sink-or-swim test are punished by Mike sprinting away as fast as he can.
Millions of our teenage youth are being left behind every day, unprepared to study further or secure good jobs in our sink-or-swim economy," adds Jobs for the Future CEO Marlene Seltzer.
It is sink-or-swim time for Kieron Dyer when he returns from injury.
That kind of sink-or-swim ethic is prized by outside recruiters, who see it as the bank's strong suit: self-reliant people.
"I don't know if it was my best ever performance - that's not for me to say - but this was a sink-or-swim fight and I am glad I did the business."