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By the skin of one's teeth

Posted by Bruce Kahl on October 14, 2003

In Reply to: By the skin of one's teeth posted by anabel on October 14, 2003

: can someone help me find the meaning of this idiom and it's history.
: thanks,

From the Word Detective;

"The source of the phrase "by the skin of one's teeth" is indeed the Book of Job, although the precise phrase Job used was "My bone cleaveth to my skin, and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth" (not "by"). Just what the "skin" of one's teeth might be is a bit unclear, but it probably refers to the thin porcelain exterior of the tooth, not the gums. Job evidently kept his teeth, but just barely. It is also possible that he was saying that the margin of his escape was as narrow as the "skin" of a tooth is shallow -- the equivalent of a "hair's breadth." In any case, Job clearly meant that he'd had a very hard time of it, and the phrase has been used ever since to mean a very narrow or arduous escape."


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