Denotation vs. Connotation

touch and go

a precarious or delicate state of affairs:
It was touch and go there for a while during the operation.
quick action or movement:
the touch and go of city traffic.
Origin of touch and go


[tuhch-uh n-goh] /ˈtʌtʃ ənˈgoʊ/
risky; precarious:
a touch-and-go descent down the mountain.
hasty, sketchy, or desultory.
1805-15 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for touch and go

touch and go

(touch-and-go when prenominal) risky or critical: a touch-and-go situation
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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touch and go in Culture

touch and go definition

Uncertain or precarious: “The doctors told the patient that, even though her disease was in remission, from now on it was touch and go.”

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for touch and go



  1. : a quick ten-or twenty-dollar touch (1846+)
  2. A small serving of food or drink


  1. (also touch up) To get or borrow money, a loan, etc; hit: Who better to touch up than the richest guys in town? (1760+)
  2. To deal with or handle something or someone •Usu in the negative: won't touch that one

Related Terms

soft touch

[touch up variant may be influenced by British touch up, ''to grope a woman'']

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with touch and go

touch and go

Extremely uncertain or risky, as in It was touch and go after the surgery; we were not sure he'd survive it, or It was touch and go but they finally gave me a seat on the plane. This idiom implies that a mere touch may cause a calamity. [ Early 1800s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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