If someone does something 'by the skin of their teeth', it means they just barely managed to do it. What is this idiom supposed to be referring to exactly, and how did it originate?
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Because (of course) your teeth don't have skin, the expression
suggests 'by the smallest possible margin'.
This reference claims an origin in The Geneva Bible 1560.
The origin is a quote from the Bible. Job, a pious man, was tested by the god. He lost family, friends, money and health. At the end, he still kept the faith. He escaped, but remained with nothing. In this sense, he escaped with "the skin of his teeth", since the teeth do not have skin.
"Teeth" is a person's final fighting weapon. (After one's arms, legs, etc. have been injured, tied up, or otherwise put out of action.)
To survive by the skin of one's teeth" (which have no skin), means that a person's last weapon was not broken or put out of action, and that there was still some "fight" left in the person when the enemy or danger somehow disappeared.
protected by Mari-Lou A Jun 21 '15 at 5:02
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