close call

Idioms & Phrases

close call

Also, close shave. Narrow escape, near miss. For example, That skier just missed the treewhat a close call, or That was a close shave, nearly leaving your passport behind. The first phrase dates from the late 1800s and comes from sports, alluding to an official's decision (call) that could have gone either way. The second, from the early 1800s, alludes to the narrow margin between closely shaved skin and a razor cut. (This latter usage replaced the much earlier equation of a close shave with miserliness, based on the idea that a close shave by a barber meant one would not have to spend money on another shave quite so soon.) Also see too close for comfort.

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