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Hang on like grim death and hang on for grim death

Hang on like grim death and hang on for grim death are idioms that have been around since the mid-1800s, though the term grim death is a great deal older. We will look at the definition of the terms hang on like grim death and hang on for grim death, where the term comes from and some examples of its use in sentences.

To hang on like grim death or hang on for grim death means to do something with extreme determination, to hold onto something very firmly. The idioms hang on like grim death and hang on for grim death appear around 1850, though the term grim death was coined by Shakespeare. The term grim death first appeared in The Taming of the Shrew, a play written in the very early 1590s. In the Induction, scene one, the Lord says: “Grim death, how foul and loathsome is thine image!” In this instance, the word grim means fierce, merciless or cruel, it is often used in this sense in the term grim reaper which is an anthropomorphization of death. The character in question in The Taming of the Shrew is not actually dead.


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Examples

The question for the country she now leads is whether she is relishing the ride of her life or clinging on like grim death. (The Sun)

“You stick your head where not everyone will go and then hang on for grim death until you hear a whistle blowing one way or the other.” (The Irish Times)

Every opponent is going in knowing it’ll have to hang on like grim death to beat them. (The Chicago Sun-Times)

When you find a great coffee like that, you hold onto it like grim death. (The San Antonio Current)

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