What Does By the Skin of Your Teeth Mean?

Skin of Your Teeth Meaning

Definition: Something just barely accomplished; a narrow escape.

Something that is just barely accomplished is said to be done by the skin of one’s teeth. Although it is a longer phrase, it means “barely” or “narrowly.”

Usually, if you have done something by the skin of your teeth, you were nervous about whether or not you would accomplish the task. You may have been under pressure or stress to finish the task you have been given. Finishing something by the skin of your teeth would bring you great relief.

Origin of By the Skin of Your Teeth

by the skin of his teethThe King James translation of the Bible is the first place this term appears. It appears in the Job 19:18-20, which states the following,

  • Yea, young children despised me; I arose, and they spake against me. All my inward friends abhorred me: and they whom I loved are turned against me. My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.

This phrase, which is translated directly from Hebrew, shows that the speaker was just barely able to escape.

Examples of By the Skin of Your Teeth

by the skin of my teethSomeone who has been up late working on a project that is due the next day may celebrate when he turns in the project at midnight, saying that he turned it in on time “just by the skin of his teeth.”

Someone else may describe the outcome of a fight using this phrase. If two dogs began fighting, the owners may attempt to pull them apart. If nobody is hurt, the dog owners may sigh with relief later, saying that they were all able to get out safely just by the skin of their teeth.

More Examples

  • Contradictory as it seems, Austin Dillon dominated Saturday’s race in NASCAR’s second-tier Xfinity Series yet won the race by the skin of his teeth. –LA Times
  • She doesn’t bother with homework and will graduate by the skin of her teeth. –Chicago Tribune


To do something by the skin of one’s teeth is to narrowly accomplish it narrowly.