By the skin of your teeth

An interesting word that came up in my Swedish lessons this week was hinna, which to have sufficient time to do something, to manage to do something in time, or to be on/in time, not to be late. That’s quite a lot of meaning packed into a small word!

Clock

Here are some examples of how it’s used:

  • Hinner du idag? = Do you have time today?
  • Jeg hinner inte i dag = I don’t have enough time today
  • Vi hinner inte leka lekar just nu = We don’t have time to play games right now
  • Hann du läsa alla sidorna? = Did you manage to read all the pages?
  • Om vi inte går nu så hinner vi inte till tåget = If we don’t go now, we’ll miss the train
  • Det hinns inte. Kom nu! = There’s no time. Come now!

A possibly related word is hinna, which means a coat(ing), skin (on liquids) film or membrane. So perhaps you’re doing something by the skin of your teeth when you hinna, although the meanings aren’t quite the same.

Doing something by the skin of your teeth means to barely manage to do something, or narrowly succeed in doing something. It apparently comes from the Bible (Job 19:20) “… I am escaped with the skin of my teeth”, and is a literal translation of the original Hebrew.

Do you know any other teeth-based idioms?

Sources: Wiktionary, bab.la, The Phrase Finder, The Idioms

One thought on “By the skin of your teeth

  1. In Russian, a similar word is успеть — to complete a task in time. Of the Swedish examples, it would really only work with 4 and 5, so it’s a little different. (Or rather, Ты сегодня успеешь? is possible, but there’s an implied object — “Are you going to manage/have time to do it today?”) It’s related to спешить (to hurry), успех (success) and преуспеть (to be successful).

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