Down to the wire

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Down to the wire is an idiom that was first seen in print in the 1880s. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will examine the meaning of the term down to the wire, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Down to the wire describes a situation in which the outcome is not known or decided until the very last moment. The term down to the wire once had a fairly literal meaning. In American horse racing in the latter 1800s, officials ran a wire above the finish line in order to make it easier to judge which horse’s nose crossed the line first, in close races. When a race was too close for the casual observer to call, the outcome was said to have “come down to the wire“. The term quickly took on a figurative meaning and passed into everyday English.


Northrop has had visas “come down to the wire” before, but never resorted to cancelling shows. (The Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Niagara Falls has two regular season games left, with a shot at up to four points, as the battle for third place comes down to the wire. (Hamilton News)

One thing is certain: The Moreno-Lasso contest is certain to be a vigorously contested, hard fought battle that is likely to go down to the wire. (PanAm Post)

After defeating the Trojans 34-33 in early December, you knew this one had a good chance to go right down to the wire and that’s exactly how it would play out. (The Redwood Falls Gazette)

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