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[hair-bredth, -bretth] /ˈhɛərˌbrɛdθ, -ˌbrɛtθ/
noun, adjective
Origin of hairbreadth
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English heere brede; see hair, breadth


[hairz-bredth, -bretth, -breth] /ˈhɛərzˌbrɛdθ, -ˌbrɛtθ, -ˌbrɛθ/
a very small space or distance:
We escaped an accident by a hairsbreadth.
extremely narrow or close.
Also, hair's-breadth, hairbreadth.
1575-85 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for hairbreadth
Historical Examples
  • Not a stitch of the button-holing of such a seam deviates by a hairbreadth from its fellows.

    The Woman's Part L. K. Yates
  • I had nearly forgotten what looked like a hairbreadth escape.

    Wild Animals at Home Ernest Thompson Seton
  • I say that one might do a thousand things instead, and that whenever I really come there I have the sense of hairbreadth escape.

    The Man Who Was Thursday G. K. Chesterton
  • Every day had its own romance, its hairbreadth escape, its thrilling adventure.

    A Handful of Stars Frank W. Boreham
  • They spun with such incredible precision that it was not possible to detect that they moved a hairbreadth.

    Space Platform Murray Leinster
  • It was a ripe Durian which had fallen from an immense height and missed him by a hairbreadth.

    Blown to Bits R.M. Ballantyne
  • Mr. Ballantyne's book will not fail to delight boys, for it is full of deeds of daring and of 'hairbreadth escapes.'

    Blown to Bits Robert Michael Ballantyne
  • They were full of stirring adventure and hairbreadth escape.

  • A book of soldiers' yarns might be told of hairbreadth escapes, the aftermath of the rebellion.

  • Is it a hairbreadth too short to cover the scratch for which you want it?

Word Origin and History for hairbreadth

also hairsbreadth, hairs-breadth, hair's breadth, mid-15c., said to have been formerly a formal unit of measure equal to one-forty-eighth of an inch. From hair + breadth.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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