2

I'm curious to know why the idiom below made with the prep "on" and not "in"?

not on your life

Not on your life! (informal) : Something that you say in order to tell someone with a lot of force that you will not do something

'Would you kiss him?' 'Not on your life!'

1
  • I think the expression stems from betting or anything that involves swearing..."I will not do it even if you bet your life on it...not on your life will I do that. Sep 4 '16 at 7:54
6

it's something that you say in order to tell someone with a lot of force that you will not do something 'Would you kiss him?' 'Not on your life!' or *Not if your life depended on it!*

"Not on your life!" dates from the eighteenth century. It refers to the old belief that you swore "on" someone's life, and if you didn't fulfill your oath, your life was forfeit.

Similar (and some more polite ways to say this are:

In a word, no.
Not on your life.
Not likely.
Over my dead body.
Count me out.
I'd rather not (if you don't mind).
I'd love to, but...
No chance.

The British seem to have an equivalent in "not on your nelly!"

1
  • That makes sense! To me, it was like it would never happen in someone's life. This comes from the analogy with the idiom "over my dead body" meaning it'll never happen in my lifetime. By the way, AFAIR the Urban Dictionary traces nelly to life
    – learner
    Dec 18 '14 at 9:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.