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German Idioms in Pictures – Hanging by a Thread

The English expression “hanging by a thread” is in German “am seidenen Faden hängen”. It means that a situation is risky, unstable, threatened, and the probability of a bad situation turning worse is very high.

German Idiom for English Phrase to Hang by a Thread


After the accident, her life was hanging by a thread. = Nach dem Unfall hing ihr Leben am seidenen Faden. (“Nach dem Unfall wäre sie fast gestorben”)

The decision whether he may keep his job hangs by a thread. = Die Entscheidung, ob er seine Arbeit behält, hängt am seidenen Faden. 

Historically, this expression goes back to the sword of  Damocles in the Greek mythology.  Damocles annoyed King Dionysius repeatedy. So the king invited Damocles for dinner and let him dine underneath a naked sword that was suspended by a single  horsehair. Happy dining

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