living on borrowed time

living on borrowed time

Meaning

  • not expected to live much longer.
  • to live after a point where it can be reasonably expected that you may have died.
  • to remain in a situation that no one really expected you to. 

Example Sentences

  1. He was told he only had three months left to live, so he is living on borrowed time now that it is four months later.
  2. His boss has not been happy with his performance for months. He is really living on borrowed time after this latest incident.
  3. The big Hollywood star is suffering from a serious illness and is now living on borrowed time.

Origin

The phrase “borrowed time” has its origins in 17th century England. The first eleven days of May used to belong to April in the old-style calendar, and these were often referred to as “borrowed days.” This did not refer to death, though, and the phrase did not have the same meaning as it does now. 

The first use of the phrase as we know it today seems to have come in the 19th century. By the 1880s, the phrase was being used in the USA and Great Britain. It appears in books such as The Indiana Progress and The English Dialect Dictionary. It began to be widely used amongst the populations of these countries around this time, and it is still in use almost 150 years later.

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