A Close Shave – Idiom, Meaning & Origin

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Ever had a close shave that didn’t involve a razor and some shaving cream? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. If the phrase a close shave conjures up an image of your local barber rather than a narrow escape, it’s time for a little linguistic grooming. Buckle up and join us as we slice through the layers of this idiom.

What Is the Meaning of a Close Shave?

A Close Shave Idiom Meaning Origin

While it might sound like a trip to the barber, a close shave has nothing to do with your hair. In fact, it’s an idiom that describes narrowly escaping a potentially bad situation or avoiding danger or trouble at the very last moment. So, if you’ve ever dodged a runaway shopping cart in the grocery store parking lot, you’ve had a close shave.

Close Shave Synonyms

Here are a few hair-raising synonyms to add to your verbal grooming kit.

  • A narrow escape
  • A near miss
  • By the skin of one’s teeth
  • A close call
  • That was a close one

There are several other ways to express the idea, but these are some of the more common ones found in English.

Close Shave Idiom Origin and Etymology

A Close Shave Ngram
A close shave usage trend.

The phrase a close shave came about sometime in the 19th century when straight razors were commonly used for shaving. I’m not sure my grandfather ever used anything else, actually!

If the barber wasn’t careful, you could end up with more than just a smooth chin—a small slip could cause a painful cut… or worse.

So, a close shave originally referred to a shave so close that it almost, but didn’t quite, cut the skin. Eventually, this phrase evolved to mean narrowly avoiding any danger or trouble, which makes sense when you think about it.

Close Shave Idiom Sentence Examples

A Close Shave Idiom Meaning Origin 1

Ready for some practical application? Here are nine sentences using the phrase a close shave.

  • We had a closer shave than I was comfortable with when our car nearly skidded off the icy road last winter.
  • The hiker had a close shave when he nearly slipped off the cliff’s edge while out for his evening run.
  • Losing my passport while in Cuba would have been disastrous, but luckily it was a close shave.
  • The soccer team had a close shave but won the match in the last minute.
  • On my way to work, I had a close shave with a rogue deer on the road.
  • We had a close shave at the airport—we made it to our gate just as they closed the doors.
  • It was a close shave, but I managed to submit my assignment just before the deadline.
  • He had a close shave with the law but avoided a ticket in the end.
  • Our old boat came within inches of the jagged rocks—that incident was quite a close shave!

Don’t Get Too Close!

So that’s all I have to say about the phrase a close shave. It isn’t just for barbers and stylists. It’s a colorful idiom to describe narrowly dodging disaster and a sharp addition to your language toolkit. While in life, you’d want to avoid a close shave, but in language, it’s a great way to add some excitement to your stories!

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