Walking on eggshells

The idiom walking on eggshells has been in use since at least the 1800s. We will examine the meaning of the idiom walking on eggshells, where it may have come from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Walking on eggshells means to behave in a cautious manner to avoid upsetting someone, to be careful in one’s behavior to avoid offending someone. The idea is that one is cautious because the person he may upset or offend is unreasonable and easily angered. For instance, a woman with an abusive husband may always be walking on eggshells around him. Obviously, an eggshell is a dainty item that is easily broken. The phrase walking on eggshells came into use in the 1800s and was preceded by the phrase walking on eggs, which came into use in the 1700s. Related phrases are walk on eggshells, walks on eggshells, walked on eggshells.

Examples

The novel is a series of interrelated stories in which it feels like something terrible will happen at every turn – reading it is like walking on eggshells. (Apollo Magazine)

“I think a lot of women and men who are in relationships are like this where, you know, you’re just walking on eggshells and you’re just happy anytime it’s just like you can breathe a little bit, even though you don’t realize that you have, you know, a cinder block on your chest the whole time.” (The Dothan Eagle)

Retail employees constantly have to walk on eggshells around their managers in order to keep their jobs. (Winsight Grocery Business)