By the Skin of My (or one’s) Teeth

Meaning of Idiom ‘By the Skin of My (or one’s) Teeth’

By the skin of one’s teeth means barely, narrowly; by the thinnest of margins. 1Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.,2Pare, May. Body Idioms and More: For Learners of English. United States?: Mayuree Pare, 2005.

Examples Of Use

“I missed having a car accident today by the skin of my teeth.”

“I barely managed to graduate from college. I got through by the skin of my teeth.”

“The fugitive has been on the run for months and only yesterday he escaped federal marshalls by the skin of his teeth.”

Origin

This idiom comes from the Bible passage Job 19:20:

“My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.”

Since teeth have no skin, this could be taken as an exaggerated way of saying Job escaped with nothing left but his own body. However, it could be that something was lost in translating the passage from the original Hebrew.

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Sources   [ + ]

1. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.
2. Pare, May. Body Idioms and More: For Learners of English. United States?: Mayuree Pare, 2005.