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The spending power of a given group, such as a family, company, country, etc. Their government is going to have to learn to tighten the purse strings if they want to continue receiving bailout money from the IMF. After my dad's gambling problem came to light, it was my mother who started holding the purse strings.
tighten (one's) belt
To reduce, restrict, or limit one's budget; to live more modestly or make financial sacrifices. A: "I don't know what we'll do now that you lost your job." B: "Don't worry, we just need to tighten our belts for a while. Living on my own during college taught me how to tighten my belt and get by on not very much.
tighten (something) on (something else)
1. To fasten something tightly onto something else. The last step of the assembly is to tighten these four feet on the legs of the table. He forgot to tighten the new antenna on the top of the car, so I couldn't listen to the radio on the drive home.
2. To tighten some part of something else. Make sure you tighten the valve on the tank to stop it from leaking. We'll need to tighten every single nut and screw on this rig, or it could fall apart in the middle of the race.
tighten (something) onto (something else)
To fasten something tightly onto something else. The last step of the assembly is to tighten these four feet onto the legs of the table. He forgot to tighten the new antenna onto the top of the car, so it popped off while I was driving.
tighten the purse strings
To become less liberal with or more controlling of one's expenditures; to decrease the availability of money for spending purposes. After losing my job, I've had to tighten the purse strings quite a bit. We've been behind schedule ever since the boss decided to tighten the purse strings on our project.
tighten the reins
To begin doing something more carefully or cautiously; to regain or tighten control of someone or something. This thesis you're planning is becoming unfocused. I think you should tighten the reins a bit. I wish those parents would tighten the rein on their kids, the little devils are tearing the place apart!
tighten the screw(s) (on one)
To exert excessive and coercive pressure, force, or threats of violence on one. The bank has really started tightening the screws on me ever since I began missing my mortgage payments. I'll send one of my strong men around to him tomorrow to tighten the screw. Then we'll see if little Johnny's still so sure he won't sign the contract.
tighten the screws on (one)
To exert excessive and coercive pressure, force, or threats of violence on one. The bank has really started tightening the screws on me ever since I began missing my mortgage payments. I'll send one of my strong men around to him tomorrow to tighten the screws on him. Then we'll see if he's still so sure he won't sign the contract.
1. To become tighter. I could see her shoulders tighten up when I suggested having my mother stay with us for a while. This valve has been tightening up from rust accumulating over the years.
2. To cause something to become tighter. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "tighten" and "up." Make sure you regularly tighten everything up on your bike—it all gets loose over time. I tightened up my grip on my purse as I passed through the dark alley.
3. To become more strict or restrictive. Security has tightened up in airports around the world in response to the attacks. Once fairly lax in its admission policy, the police force has tightened up considerably in recent years.
4. To cause something to become more strict or restrictive. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "tighten" and "up." As stories of ransomware become more common, we're continuing to tighten up our cyber-security software suite for business customers. Our country will never reach its full potential until we tighten our borders up against unlawful immigration.
5. To become disciplined, well organized, and efficient. Our department has really tightened up in the last year ever since the new boss took over. Everyone in this team needs to tighten up if we want to have any shot of making it to the playoffs this year!
6. To cause someone or something become disciplined, well organized, and efficient. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "tighten" and "up." The new CEO has made it his mission to tighten up the company and return it to a profit within this fiscal year. The team has a lot of raw talent and potential, but you'll need to really tighten them up if they're going to find any consistent success.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
tighten one's belt
Fig. to manage to spend less money; to use less of something. (See also take one's belt in (a notch).) Things are beginning to cost more and more. It looks like we'll all have to tighten our belts. Times are hard, and prices are high. I can tighten my belt for only so long.
tighten something on(to) something
to make something more tightly attached to something. Will you please tighten this nut onto the bolt? I tightened the lid on the pickle jar.
tighten something up
to make something tighter. Tighten your seat belt up. It looks loose. Can you tighten up all the bolts?
1. Lit. [for something] to get tighter. The door hinges began to tighten up, making the door hard to open and close. His grip around the handle tightened up and he refused to let go.
2. Fig. [for someone or a group] to become miserly. The government tightened up and our budget was slashed. We almost went out of business when we couldn't get credit because the bank tightened up.
3. Fig. [for someone or something] to become more restrictive. The boss is tightening up on new hiring. There are more rules and the people who enforce them are tightening up.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Financial resources or control of them, as in His mother doesn't want to let go of the purse strings because he may make some foolish investments . This expression is often extended to hold or tighten or loosen the purse strings , as in As long as Dad holds the purse strings, we have to consider his wishes, or The company is tightening the purse strings and will not be hiring many new people this year . The purse strings in this idiom are the means of opening and closing a drawstring purse. [Early 1400s]
tighten one's belt
Spend less, be more frugal, as in Business has been bad, so we'll have to tighten our belts. This metaphoric term alludes to pulling in one's belt after losing weight from not having enough to eat. [First half of 1900s]
tighten the screws
see under turn up the heat.
turn up the heat on
Also, put the heat or screws or squeeze on ; tighten the screws on. Pressure someone, as in The cops turned up the heat on drivers who show signs of drunkenness, or They said they'd tighten the screws on her if she didn't confess. All of these slangy terms allude to forms of physical coercion or torture. The first dates from about 1930, the variants using screws from the mid-1800s, and squeeze from the late 1700s.
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.
tighten your belt
COMMON If you tighten your belt, you make an effort to spend less money. Clearly, if you are spending more than your income, you'll need to tighten your belt. He recently announced the club will have to tighten its belt next season, saying he will lower wages and sell players. Note: You can also talk about belt tightening. Yesterday's vote means that the Greeks are prepared to accept a period of belt tightening. The nation's second largest bank announced a series of layoffs and other belt-tightening measures today to counteract heavy losses.
tighten the purse stringsor
tighten your purse strings
If you tighten the purse strings or tighten your purse strings, you reduce the amount of money that can be spent. Election promises must be delayed while the government tightens its purse strings.
turn the screw on someoneor
tighten the screw on someoneINFORMAL
COMMON If someone turns the screw on you or tightens the screw on you, they do something in order to defeat you or in order to make you do what they want. The supermarkets group turned the screw on its troubled rival yesterday, revealing strong sales figures and an expansion of its network. The attacks are seen as an attempt to tighten the screw still further on the government. Note: You can also simply say that someone turns the screw or tightens the screw. Perhaps it's a final attempt to turn the screw and squeeze a last concession out of us. Note: You can also use the plural screws in these expressions. The quickest way to end the violence is surely to tighten the screws on the leader. Note: You can call each action done to defeat or put pressure on someone a turn of the screw or a tightening of the screw. Every rebel raid, however small, is another turn of the screw, increasing the pressure on the President. Opposition parties see the changes as a further tightening of the screw. Note: This is a reference to a method of torture called the thumbscrew. The prisoner's thumbs were pressed between two bars of iron which were then tightened by means of a screw.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
tighten your beltcut your expenditure; live more frugally.
tighten (or turn) the screw (or screws)exert strong pressure on someone. informal
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
tighten your ˈbeltspend less money, eat less food, etc. because there is little available: In wartime everyone has to tighten their belts. ♢ We’ll have to tighten our belts if we want to save any money for a summer break this year. OPPOSITE: throw your money about/around ▶ ˈbelt-tightening noun: Continued government belt-tightening has helped to reduce public debt.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
1. To make something tight or tighter: I pulled on the ends of the string to tighten up the knot. The mechanic tightened the bolts up with a rachet. This exercise will tighten up your stomach muscles. Tighten your belt up so your pants don't fall down.
2. To become tight or tighter: I knew I had a fish when the line suddenly tightened up. After the run, I walked around the track so my muscles wouldn't tighten up. I tightened up on the handlebars as I went over the bump.
3. To make something more strict or secure: The government is trying to tighten up the tax code. The country has tightened its borders up to prevent drug smuggling.
4. To become more strict or secure: Airline security has tightened up, and now all luggage must be scanned.
5. To make something more disciplined: The company is tightening up their management in an effort to reduce wasteful spending. The author has tightened the story up by deleting irrelevant details.
6. To become more disciplined: The team has tightened up under the leadership of the new coach.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
tighten one’s belt
tv. to prepare for economies. (see also take one’s belt in (a notch).) The entire country will have to tighten its belt.
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
tighten (one's) belt
To begin to exercise thrift and frugality.
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.
tighten one's belt, to
To be more frugal; to undergo adversity with patience. The analogy here is to tightening one’s belt after losing weight from going hungry. The London Observer of 1927 described “A traveling troupe who quoted Corneille while tightening their belts.”
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
- purse strings
- (Someone or something) called, they want their (something) back!
- pick (one's) pocket
- pick somebody's pocket
- a bad apple spoils the (whole) barrel
- a rotten apple spoils the (whole) barrel
- a rotten apple spoils the (whole) bunch
- a rotten apple spoils the (whole) bushel
- one bad apple spoils the (whole) bushel