phrases, sayings, proverbs and idioms at

The Phrase Finder

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

Home > Phrase Dictionary - Meanings and Origins > By the skin of your teeth

Browse phrases beginning with: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ - Full List

By the skin of your teeth

more like this...
...other phrases about:


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


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'.