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  • WordNet 3.6
    • n hair's-breadth a very small distance or space "they escaped by a hair's-breadth","they lost the election by a whisker"
    • ***
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • ns Hair's-breadth the breadth of a hair (Hairbreadth 'scape, a very narrow escape): a very small distance
    • ***


By a hair's breadth - If a person escapes from some danger by a hair's breadth, they only just managed to avoid it. The breadth is the thickness of a hair, so they probably feel somewhat lucky because the margin between success and what could easily have been failure was so close.


Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
A.S. hǽr, Ger., Dut., and Dan. haar, &c.


In literature:

The gray eyes of Cullison did not waver a hair's breadth.
"Crooked Trails and Straight" by William MacLeod Raine
A hair's breadth would have done it.
"The Sign of the Spider" by Bertram Mitford
You have not altered my conviction by a hair's-breadth.
"Captain Desmond, V.C." by Maud Diver
In the first place, he tied the Dead Man down upon the table so firmly, that he could not move a hair's breadth.
"City Crimes" by Greenhorn
He felt as if some rare bird had flown in which would be frightened away if he moved a hair's breadth.
"Colonel Carter's Christmas and The Romance of an Old-Fashioned Gentleman" by F. Hopkinson Smith
Do you know, or don't you, that 'twasn't by more than a hair's-breadth we missed going over that viaduct?
"Merry-Garden and Other Stories" by Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch
All that, seven years ago, an' the thing is dune the day wi'oot a hair's-breadth difference.
"The Dop Doctor" by Clotilde Inez Mary Graves
If he deviated a hair's breadth at that speed he'd turn turtle.
"El Diablo" by Brayton Norton
You may be sure he was very careful not to move those broken bones a hair's breadth!
"The Ranch at the Wolverine" by B. M. Bower
It may be added that they remained their full time, and yet missed by a hair's breadth sighting the enemy.
"Lessons of the war with Spain and other articles" by Alfred T. Mahan
Ranny stood in the doorway, silent, almost austere, like a man escaped by a hair's breadth from great peril.
"The Combined Maze" by May Sinclair
I ducked, just in time, for he missed me by a mere hair's-breadth.
"My Brave and Gallant Gentleman" by Robert Watson
Not if his life depended on it would he depass that precise instant by a hair's-breadth.
"The Serapion Brethren," by Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann
No entreaties, threats, arguments, denunciations, stirred him a hair's-breadth.
"A House-Party" by Ouida
She was within a hair's breadth of clutching and squeezing me to death!
"A Captive of the Roman Eagles" by Felix Dahn
As Wachis stooped the knife whistled only a hair's-breadth past his head, and penetrated deeply into the door-post behind him.
"A Struggle for Rome, v. 1" by Felix Dahn
Belisarius was saved by a hair's-breadth.
"A Struggle for Rome, Vol. 2 (of 3)" by Felix Dahn
Several times they were within a hair's-breadth of being smashed.
"Farthest North" by Fridtjof Nansen
But do you imagine that it makes what you have done one hair's breadth better?
"The Undying Past" by Hermann Sudermann
He could not move it a hair's breadth, for they had piled a great heap of stones against it.
"The Princess and the Goblin" by George MacDonald

In poetry:

Yet could the immemorial piles be swung
A skyey hair's breadth from their rooted base,
Back to the central anchorage of space,
Ah, then again, as when the race was young,
Should they behold the beacon of the race!
"The Old Pole Star" by Edith Wharton

In news:

Human rights suit presents two dogmas, a hair's breadth apart.
Maragos within hair's breadth of clinching primary spot.
Hair's breadth : McDonnell certified AG winner.
Human rights suit presents two dogmas, a hair's breadth apart .
With Andy Grammer, who splits the hair's breadth of difference between Gavin DeGraw and Jason Mraz.
Fifty years ago, the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the United States and the Soviet Union within a hair's breadth of nuclear war.
Chase Rice–the hair's-breadth runner-up on CBS' Survivor –may have lost a million dollars, but he got to perform in front of millions of people Sunday night during the hit reality show's live finale.
"There are spys, monsters, betrayals, hair's-breadth escapes, spells to be broken and all the usual accouterments, but Thurber gives the proceedings his own particular deadpan spin".