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10 Expressions That Came From the Ancient World


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By the Skin of Your Teeth
Job lies in a heap of refuse surrounded by his three "comforters." SuperStock/Getty Images
Job lies in a heap of refuse surrounded by his three "comforters." SuperStock/Getty Images

This can be a bit perplexing. After all, no one has skin on their teeth. So what does it mean? It means you escaped or achieved something — death, a bad date, a top grade — by a very slim margin.

We have the Bible to thank for this phrase, and specifically the Book of Job. Job is a character who undergoes innumerable tragedies, and sighs, complains and rails against God because of this, although he never loses his faith. In Job 19:20, Job says, "I am nothing but skin and bones; I have escaped only by the skin of my teeth." He's saying he's narrowly escaped death — that he escaped death by a margin so slim, it's as thin as the skin on your teeth. No one has skin on their teeth; that's the point, and it's why it indicates such a minute amount [sources: Addis].


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