On The Edge – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Have you ever been in a precarious position? Maybe you are faced with an impossible choice that can lead you to ruin or salvation. Do you like living your life on the brink of danger? If so, then on the edge is an apt expression that may apply to you. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


When you are on the edge you are essentially on the precipice of an action or event. Another way to explain the meaning is that you are close to doing something, or something is close to happening. On the edge is considered a precarious, or unstable position, both in positive and negative terms. In most cases, it is alluded to being a dangerous activity, or a way of living that skirts danger.

Being on edge is commonly mistaken for being on the edge. While the former means to be nervous, the latter means very close to. On the edge is another way to explain always feeling keenly excited, or in a state of high adrenaline.

Example Usage

“John was on the edge of bankruptcy for almost two years until he landed his new job”.

“Your behavior keeps me on the edge of sanity”.

“With so much work and very little downtime, I am always on the edge of being burned out”.

“Jane was on the edge of telling me all about the upcoming test, but you walked in and she forgot”.


The word edge is an Old English word that features Proto-Germanic roots. There are various spellings of the word depending on where the world it was first encountered. The word has been paired with a variety of others to expand its meaning over the years. Get the edge on, to be on edge, to give an edge, and so on have been around since 13c.

The actual phrase “on the edge” has been around for a few hundred years, but its exact origin is unknown. It became a popular saying in the 1620s and still remains widely used even today. The phrase is linked with being at a tipping point or living a life of risk, which has always been popular.

Phrases Similar to On The Edge

  • Teetering on the brink
  • Hover on the edge
  • On the verge of
  • Perplexed
  • Confused
  • Unstable

Phrases Opposite to On The Edge

  • Stable
  • Calculated
  • Ready and committed
  • Well planned
  • On the cuff
  • On the face of it
  • On the defensive

What is the Correct Saying?

  • The correct saying is – “on the edge”.

Ways People May Incorrectly Say On The Edge

The most common mistake people make when using the phrase is mistaking it for “on edge”, which has a different meaning. People may also use the phrase “on the edge” when they mean to use “on edge”. Some ways that on the edge is used incorrectly are:

  • I hate how he is always on the edge when his parents are around.
  • Instead of always being on the edge, try to relax and think about something more pleasant.
  • After last night’s performance, the team is on edge of securing the World Series.
  • Try to make up your mind, you can’t stay on edge of success your whole life.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase On The Edge

On the edge can mean someone is on the verge of action, or that they like danger. The context is key when using this phrase. Some ways that on the edge is used correctly are:

  • The election is on the edge of being announced in favor of the Democrats.
  • Right before the cheating scandal was released, Kim was on the edge of becoming the class president.
  • He likes to live his life fully on the edge, it’s a dangerous way to be, but full of rewards.
  • Marines are highly skilled in their craft, but they live on the edge of morality when it comes to actual application.

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