sword of Damocles


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Related to sword of Damocles: Gordian knot

sword of Damocles

Any imminent, impending, or eventual trouble, danger, or disaster. In Greek mythology, the courtier Damocles was forced to sit beneath a sword suspended by a single hair to emphasize the instability of a king's fortunes. Usually used in the phrase "a/the sword of Damocles hangs over one/one's head." The threat of war has hung over the region like the sword of Damocles for nearly a decade. The new tax law is proving to be a sword of Damocles hanging over our very business model.
See also: Damocles, of, sword

sword of Damocles

Also, Damocles' sword. Impending disaster, as in The likelihood of lay-offs has been a sword of Damocles over the department for months. This expression alludes to the legend of Damocles, a servile courtier to King Dionysius I of Syracuse. The king, weary of Damocles' obsequious flattery, invited him to a banquet and seated him under a sword hung by a single hair, so as to point out to him the precariousness of his position. The idiom was first recorded in 1747. The same story gave rise to the expression hang by a thread.
See also: Damocles, of, sword

sword of Damocles

an imminent danger.
When the courtier Damocles described Dionysius I, ruler of Syracuse ( 405–367 bc ), as the happiest of men, Dionysius gave him a graphic demonstration of the fragility of his happiness: he invited Damocles to a banquet, in the middle of which he looked up to see a naked sword suspended over his head by a single hair.
See also: Damocles, of, sword

a/the sword of ˈDamocles

(literary) a bad or unpleasant thing that might happen to you at any time and that makes you feel worried or frightened: Now the news of my divorce is public, I’m relieved in a way. It had been hanging over my head like the sword of Damocles.This expression comes from the Greek legend in which Damocles had to sit at a meal with a sword hanging by a single hair above his head. He had praised King Dionysius’ happiness, and Dionysius wanted him to understand how quickly happiness can be lost.
See also: Damocles, of, sword

sword of Damocles

Impending danger or doom. The term comes from the same Greek legend about Damocles that gave us hang by a thread. Although the story illustrates the insecurity of power and high position, in later applications the term was used to signify any kind of impending misfortune.
See also: Damocles, of, sword

sword of Damocles

An imminent and/or constant threat. According to Greek legend, Damocles, a friend of King Dionysius of Syracuse, envied the ruler's great wealth and power. When Damocles told the king how fortunate he was, Dionysius offered to change places for a day. As Damocles dined at the head of the table, he happened to look up. There above his head, held by only a single horsehair, hung a sharp sword pointing downward toward his chair. Frozen with fear that the thread would break, he pointed out the predicament to the king. Dionysius nodded, acknowledging that the sword was a constant factor in his life, an actual and a metaphoric reminder that some person or circumstance might at any time cut the thread. Such risk, the king added, comes as an integral part of power. Any ever-present risk, especially one that's hanging by a thread, is how the phrase has been used.
See also: Damocles, of, sword
References in periodicals archive ?
For physicians, the sword of Damocles grows larger annually.
Leading consultant obstetrician Dr Peter Boylan said that Irish abortion laws have become "like a sword of Damocles" hanging over doctors, because there are grey areas where they were left at risk of committing a criminal offence.
Both are hanging over the industryOs fortunes like the sword of Damocles.O Total January passenger demand rose 5.7 percent compared to January 2011, a slight acceleration from the 5.6 percent year-over-year increase recorded for December 2011.
No-one likes to feel that the sword of Damocles is hanging over them.
Crvenkovski, who in the middle of Skopje demanded early elections, seems to be caught by fear, and now his demand has turned into a sword of Damocles. He called for elections alone, and now he does not want them.
It is not true to revive historical issues like the sword of Damocles swinging on Turkish-U.S.
Mr Clegg stressed cuts will begin next April and be spread over four years so there is no "sword of Damocles that's going to come down straight away".
But the specter of light pollution looms over astronomy like a sword of Damocles. The problem continues to worsen, and in future decades the glare of artificial lighting might wipe out visual deep-sky observing for large stretches of the world's landmasses.
The International Olympic Committee has kept the sword of Damocles hovering over the heads of five athletes who failed dope tests at the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
Something akin to the sword of Damocles still hangs over a very large community in central Middlesbrough, and it is seemingly only political chauvinism and the inability to say we got it wrong that keeps this programme barely spluttering along and going nowhere.
Indeed, St David's Cathedral was built in a dip to afford protection from this deadly and daily threat - this Sword of Damocles took the form of that fearsome sea-going race - the Vikings!
The possibility that Hollywood's studios could terminate contracts with creative talent under force majeure conditions has hung over the industry like the sword of Damocles since the writers strike commenced Nov.
G.'s solicitor likened the risk of bail being wrongly withdrawn to the "'sword of Damocles hanging over anyone's head,'" and said that it was the "'ultimate nightmare'" for G.
Don't make us read the footnotes to find out that the sword of Damocles hovers over your neck.
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