On Borrowed Time

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Also: Living on borrowed time

Meaning of Idiom 'On Borrowed Time'

To be (living) on borrowed time means to have continued living after the point where you might reasonably be expected to have died and to therefore not have long to live; to outlive expectations; to continue to exist or function longer than expected. 1,2,3


"My car was old when I bought it. It's living on borrowed time."

"My uncle has had four heart attacks. The family thinks he's on living on borrowed time."

"This company is on borrowed time. We are likely to go bankrupt within three months."

"We'll need a new furnace soon because ours is on borrowed time."


Used since the late-1800's, this idiom alludes to borrowing time from death. 2

1. McIntosh, Colin. Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Cambridge University Press, 2013.
2. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
3. Heacock, Paul. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010.

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