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

The expression be/have a close shave is one of the idioms that often finds a place in our literature and enriches our language. However, its meaning is not fully understood, so it is sometimes used in the wrong situations. Please review the explanation carefully for the correct use of the be/have a close shave idiom.

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

Idioms with similar meanings in different languages

"Barking up the wrong tree" is an English idiom that means to pursue a mistaken or misguided course of action. In German, the similar idiom is "Auf dem Holzweg sein," which translates to "To be on the wrong track." This idiom emphasizes the idea that when you are pursuing the wrong course of action, you are not going to achieve your desired outcome.


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