tread water


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tread water

1. To move one's feet and hands in a motion that will allow one to keep one's head above the surface of the water. If you fall overboard, just tread water until we are able to circle back around and pick you up. He's terrified to go on a boat because he can't even tread water.
2. By extension, to maintain one's current status without making any significant progress; to be barely able to maintain one's current position or status. The market for paperback books has shrunk so much in recent years that our company has really just been treading water recently. With all the expenses we have to deal with in the new house, it feels like we're just treading water between paychecks.
See also: tread, water

tread water

Expend effort that maintains one's status but does not make much progress toward a goal, as in He was just treading water from paycheck to paycheck. This idiom alludes to the term's literal meaning, that is, "keep one's head above water by remaining upright and pumping the legs."
See also: tread, water

tread water

COMMON If you tread water, you fail to make progress, but instead just continue to do the same things. I feel as if I've actually taken a step forward, and that I'm not just treading water. Without any hope of promotion, I feel I'm just treading water. Note: When swimmers tread water, they move their arms and legs in order to keep their head above the water without actually making progress in any direction.
See also: tread, water

tread water

1 maintain an upright position in the water by moving the feet with a walking movement and the hands with a downward circular motion. 2 fail to advance or make progress.
2 1996 Financial Post The NAPM index…has been treading water since the spring, and that is making a lot of people nervous.
See also: tread, water

ˌtread ˈwater


1 keep yourself upright in deep water by moving your arms and legs
2 make no progress while you are waiting for something to happen: For the past year I’ve been treading water, in a boring job with no hope of promotion.
See also: tread, water

tread water

1. To keep the head above water while in an upright position by pumping the legs.
2. To expend effort but make little or no progress to achievement of a goal or an end.
See also: tread, water
References in periodicals archive ?
The helpless prince had to simply tread water as they hurled abuse at him and threatrened him with harpoon guns.
Foster, "Where Many Fear to Tread Water...," The Roanoke Times, August 19, 1996, A1, A8.
* Float or tread water for one minute without a life jacket.
Act IV doesn't tread water. No suicides, no good-evil combat, no macho heroics; instead, at the storm's climax, the lovers embrace and flee.
That didn't end there as Carl, an employee concerned that we should be safe in deep water, took us to the Empire Pool and taught us to tread water, so that we were OK in a deep pool.
QPR need more players and are just managing to tread water right now, but ninthplaced Norwich and Swansea, who are 12th, are flourishing.
HOUSE prices edged ahead by 0.3% in February as the property market continued to "tread water", according to the findings of a new report from the Nationwide.
Later his diving boat sank off Thailand and he was forced to tread water for eight hours through the night until he was picked up by another boat.
I remember looking up at the clock at the 58-minute mark and thinking how the Hull KR players were really starting to tread water.
It was most unpleasant, watching him as he thrashed about without any apparent design or purpose other than to just tread water and stay afloat
The London market continued to tread water despite a positive reception to half-year results from drinks giant Diageo today.
Escayola (1.35 Lingfield) Loomed large at the Bushes in the Cesarewitch last time but then appeared to tread water before finishing an honourable eighth.
Let Miss Thing tread water in the shallow end of the pool--you're too busy having fun with your real friends to get caught up in the cattiness.
The shocked animal was too weakened by having to tread water in the deep end to make it to the shallow end where it could stand up.
Property dealer Mr Barne managed to tread water with his arm above his head hoping that someone would spot him from the shore.