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Hand to mouth

To have just enough to survive

Hand to mouth This idiom dates back to the 1500s. Some sources believe that this idiom comes from a period of famine in Britain, where because of the lack of food, whenever people had anything to eat, it went straight from their hands to their mouths, and was never saved to be eaten later. The phrase is recorded in the 1576 edition of Johnson’s Dictionary.


We have a long way to go until everyone is equal. Even today, half the world is living hand to mouth.

We didn’t have much growing up – we lived hand to mouth until I was about twenty-one and started working at a bank.

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