What does the idiom "be/have a close shave" mean?

Idioms are generally defined as groups of words that form a meaningful whole when they come together, even though the words in them do not make sense on their own. They have produced many idioms according to their own cultural characteristics in communities using the English language. What does be/have a close shave mean? In what situations is be/have a close shave used?

Meaning of "be/have a close shave"


To ‘have/be a close shave’ means to narrowly avoid a negative or unpleasant outcome. This idiom implies that the outcome could have been much worse had the person not evaded it narrowly or been fortunate. It is usually used to refer to dangerous or life-threatening situations that someone has miraculously managed to escape from.


The phrase ‘have/be a close shave’ originated from the act of shaving, where a person uses a sharp blade to cut off facial hair. It began as a reference to someone narrowly avoiding the blade while a person was shaving. The phrase is not only used to refer to literal close shaves but also used to describe any situation where danger is narrowly avoided.


The phrase ‘have/be a close shave’ is mostly used in informal English. It is often used to describe risky situations, where someone manages to narrowly avoid a potentially dangerous situation or outcome. When referring to actual shaving, the phrase is used to refer to a person who has managed to shave very close to their skin without cutting it. Additionally, the phrase can also be used to refer to something that was successfully completed, yet was still tricky and required a lot of skill.

Example Sentences

  • We had a close shave when the car almost crashed into us.
  • We had a close shave when the burglar almost caught us.
  • I've managed to give myself a close shave without nicking my skin.
  • The rock climber had a close shave when he almost fell off the cliff.
  • The pilot managed to land the plane with a close shave.

The meanings of the words in the "be/have a close shave" idiom

The Global Spread of English Idioms

As English has become a global language, its idioms have spread far beyond the borders of the UK and USA. For instance, the idiom "beat around the bush" has equivalents in many other languages, such as "tourner autour du pot" in French and "dar vueltas al asunto" in Spanish. Meanwhile, other idioms have been adapted for local contexts, such as the Russian idiom "?? ???? ???????" (ne svoya rubashka), which translates to "not one's own shirt," meaning to be in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar situation.


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