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sword of Damocles

noun
1.
Damocles (def 2).
Origin
1810-1820
1810-20

Damocles

[dam-uh-kleez] /ˈdæm əˌkliz/
noun
1.
a flatterer who, having extolled the happiness of Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse, was seated at a banquet with a sword suspended over his head by a single hair to show him the perilous nature of that happiness.
Idioms
2.
sword of Damocles, any situation threatening imminent harm or disaster.
Related forms
Damoclean
[dam-uh-klee-uh n] /ˌdæm əˈkli ən/ (Show IPA),
adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for sword damocles

Damocles

/ˈdæməˌkliːz/
noun
1.
(classical myth) a sycophant forced by Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse, to sit under a sword suspended by a hair to demonstrate that being a king was not the happy state Damocles had said it was See also Sword of Damocles
Derived Forms
Damoclean, adjective

Sword of Damocles

noun
1.
a closely impending disaster
Word Origin
see Damocles
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for sword damocles

Damocles

courtier of Dionysius I, tyrant of Syracuse; his name in Greek means literally "fame of the people," from demos, damos "people" (see demotic) + -kles "fame," a common ending in Greek proper names (e.g. Sophocles, Pericles), from PIE *klew-es, from root *kleu- "to hear" (see listen). To teach Damocles how a tyrant lives, Dionysius seated him at a banquet with a sword suspended above his head by a single hair.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with sword damocles
Also, Damocles' sword . Impending disaster, as in The likelihood of lay-offs has been a sword of Damocles over the department for months . This expression alludes to the legend of Damocles, a servile courtier to King Dionysius I of Syracuse. The king, weary of Damocles' obsequious flattery, invited him to a banquet and seated him under a sword hung by a single hair, so as to point out to him the precariousness of his position. The idiom was first recorded in 1747. The same story gave rise to the expression hang by a thread
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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