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The meaning and origin of the expression: By the skin of your teeth

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By the skin of your teeth

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Meaning

Narrowly; barely. Usually used in regard to a narrow escape from a disaster.

Origin

The phrase first appears in English in the Geneva Bible, 1560, in Job 19:20, which provides a literal translation of the original Hebrew:

"I haue escaped with the skinne of my tethe."

Teeth don't have skin, of course, so the writer may have been alluding to the teeth's surface or simply to a notional minute measure - something that might now be referred to, with less poetic imagery than the biblical version, as 'as small as the hairs on a gnat's bollock'.