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by a hair

by a hairbreadth or whisker
. Very narrowly. For example,
His serve was out by a hair
, or
We made our flight by a hairbreadth
, or
Dad missed hitting the pole by a whisker
. The first two hyperboles for the very narrowest margin date from the 1300s and 1400s respectively;
meaning “a small amount” was first recorded in 1913. Also see
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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