by a hair

Idioms & Phrases

by a hair

Also, 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; whisker meaning "a small amount" was first recorded in 1913. Also see by the skin of one's teeth; hang by a hair.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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