on the blink


verb (used without object)
to open and close the eye, especially involuntarily; wink rapidly and repeatedly.
to look with winking or half-shut eyes: I blinked at the harsh morning light.
to be startled, surprised, or dismayed (usually followed by at ): She blinked at his sudden fury.
to look evasively or with indifference; ignore (often followed by at ): to blink at another's eccentricities.
to shine unsteadily, dimly, or intermittently; twinkle: The light on the buoy blinked in the distance.
verb (used with object)
to open and close (the eye or eyes), usually rapidly and repeatedly; wink: She blinked her eyes in an effort to wake up.
to cause (something) to blink: We blinked the flashlight frantically, but there was no response.
to ignore deliberately; evade; shirk.
an act of blinking: The faithful blink of the lighthouse.
a gleam; glimmer: There was not a blink of light anywhere.
Chiefly Scot. a glance or glimpse.
on the blink, not in proper working order; in need of repair: The washing machine is on the blink again.

1250–1300; Middle English blinken (v.), variant of blenken to blench1; cognate with Dutch, German blinken

1. See wink1. 8. overlook, disregard, avoid, condone. 9. wink, flicker, twinkle, flutter.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
blink (blɪŋk)
vb (when tr, usually foll by at) (when intr, foll by at)
1.  to close and immediately reopen (the eyes or an eye), usually involuntarily
2.  (intr) to look with the eyes partially closed, as in strong sunlight
3.  to shine intermittently, as in signalling, or unsteadily
4.  (tr; foll by away, from, etc) to clear the eyes of (dust, tears, etc)
5.  to be surprised or amazed: he blinked at the splendour of the ceremony
6.  to pretend not to know or see (a fault, injustice, etc)
7.  the act or an instance of blinking
8.  a glance; glimpse
9.  short for iceblink
10.  slang on the blink not working properly
[C14: variant of blench1; related to Middle Dutch blinken to glitter, Danish blinke to wink, Swedish blinka]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

1580s, from M.Du. blinken "to glitter," of uncertain origin (possibly akin to bleach; cf. Ger. blinken "to gleam, sparkle, twinkle"). M.E. used blekne in this sense, related to blench (q.v.).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

on the blink

Also, on the bum or fritz. Malfunctioning, out of order, broken, as in The TV is on the blink again, or You driveour car's on the bum. The first of these slangy expressions dates from the late 1800s and possibly alludes to an electric light that flickers on and off ("blinks"); the second, from the same period, possibly is derived from bum in the sense of "a contemptible person"; the third, fritz, dating from about 1900, is of unknown origin.

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