phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Home > Discussion Forum

Re: In harm's way

Posted by ESC on July 19, 2000

In Reply to: Re: Origin & meaning posted by Bob on July 17, 2000

: : Harm's way

: The meaning: a position of vulnerability, in the path (way) of something dangerous (harm) soon to appear. A child playing in a busy street is in harm's way.
: Origin? don't know.

"In harm's way -- In a dangerous place or situation. Particularly applied to members of the armed services in war or in threat of war. The phrase comes from America's Revolutionary War naval hero, John Paul Jones. In a letter dated November 16, 1778, he wrote, 'I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail FAST; for I indend to go in harm's way.' He was in France at the time, seeking a ship; the French offered him several, prizes taken from the British. He finally took the ship he named 'Bonhomme Richard.'" From "Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Allusion" by Elizabeth Webber and Mike Feinsilber (Merriam-Webster, Springfield, Mass., 1999).