What are the formal and informal equivalents (idiom or word) for the situation which Sword of Damocles could describe that?

From Cambridge Dictionary, Sword of Damocles means:

If you have a sword of Damocles hanging over you/your head, something bad seems very likely to happen to you.

E.g. The threat of a cut in funding is hanging over the Opera House like a sword of Damocles.

4 Answers 4


Sword of Damocles:



have a [dark/storm] cloud hanging over one's head

(storm clouds) Used in reference to a threatening or ominous state of affairs: the beginning of the decade saw storm clouds gathering over Europe.

Oxford Dictionaries

It was still a dark cloud hanging over my head. A Sword of Damocles. Every time I saw that a partner was calling me on the phone, I held my breath.

Ever After: Broken Book 3

Throughout the Cold War, we lived with the threat of nuclear holocaust hanging over our heads like a dark cloud.

Defense Special Weapons Agency

be staring one in the face

  1. To be imminent or unavoidable to (one): Bankruptcy now stares us in the face.

  2. To be about to experience or undergo (something dire): We are staring bankruptcy in the face.

American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language

The threat of a cut in funding is staring the Opera House in the face.


It doesn't seem to appear in any online idiom lists or dictionaries, but one option is:

A knife to the jugular

(link is to Google NGram viewer)


Try jeopardy - Risk of loss or injury; peril or danger.

Also, kafkaesque - Marked by surreal distortion and often a sense of impending danger.

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