Are you looking for an expression describing a close call? You could say that you escaped by “the skin of your teeth.” This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.
The expression “skin of my teeth” refers to a close call that could have ended badly for you. However, you managed to escape unscathed.
It also means that you succeeded in a task by a narrow margin, and failure was close. If you escape something by the skin of your teeth, you barely make it out.
"Well, we escaped the boss's wrath by the skin of our teeth. Next time, don't talk back to him when he's acting all high and mighty."
"I dropped into that wave and escaped the lip by the skin of my teeth. If it had hit me, it would have drilled me into the reef hard."
"We got to the venue and made it in before they closed the doors. We managed to get through by the skin of our teeth. Let's leave earlier next time."
"Wow, I passed my exams by the skin of my teeth. I thought I was going to fail economics for sure."
"We made the window for the climb by the skin of our teeth. If we waited another half an hour, the storm would have closed us out from the summit."
"You managed to avoid getting shot by the skin of your teeth. The cop was about to pull the trigger, and it could have turned out much worse for you."
"She almost caught me cheating last night. I was lucky she got distracted and didn't come around the back. I escaped by the skin of my teeth."
The expression "skin of my teeth" originates from The Holy Bible and the Book of Job. Job 19:20 features the phrase as follows.
"I am nothing but skin and bones;
I have escaped only by the skin of my teeth."
Job experienced the onset of skin disease over his entire body, except for his gums. He refers to his gums as "the skin of his teeth" and the only unaffected area.
A 1928 book authored by Baroness Emma Orczy, titled "Skin o' My Tooth," uses the expression as a nickname for a lawyer. It appears as follows.
"by the skin o' my tooth."
Thornton Wilder produced a play in 1942 called "The Skin of Our Teeth," featuring many biblical references throughout.
"Skin o' My Teeth" is also a popular song on the 1992 album "Countdown to Extinction," where the song talks about a suicide attempt.
Phrases Similar to Skin of My Teeth
- Barely make it out alive.
- By a narrow margin.
- By a hair’s breadth.
- Escape by a whisker.
Phrases Opposite to Skin of My Teeth
- A wide margin.
- No bother.
- Easy escape.
What is the Correct Saying?
- Skin of my teeth.
Ways People May Say Skin of My Teeth Incorrectly
The phrase has nothing to do with teeth or skin. The “skin” in the saying refers to a thin biofilm covering the teeth. It’s a way of saying you made a narrow escape. Since teeth don’t have skin, it’s a reference to barely making it through a task or occurrence in your life. The saying doesn't mean that you have dirty teeth.
Acceptable Ways to Phrase Skin of My Teeth
You can use the phrase “skin of my teeth” To describe escaping a close encounter with something that would result in a bad outcome for you. It represents a scenario where you have a close call with something, referring to serious or lighthearted events.
For instance, you could use it after escaping being bitten by a dog when walking past someone’s yard. You could use it to say that you barely achieved a passing grade in an exam. Or you could use it to describe how someone else got lucky and avoided a bad situation that could have cost them money, their life, or respect from others.