Know Your Next Word : Sword of Damocles

25. Sword of Damocles :

noun :

1. any situation threatening imminent harm or disaster

2. an ever-present threat

Usage :

  • Roth said : The threat of an audit looms like the sword of Damocles over the heads of taxpayers.(IRS Chief Wants to Balance Service - Enforcement : The Advocate (Stamford - Connecticut) : Feb 13 - 2009.)

  • The Latin American debt was overhanging American banks like the sword of Damocles.

  • The likelihood of lay-offs has been a sword of Damocles over the department for months.


    After Damocles of Greek legend. Damocles was a courtier who flattered the ruler Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse, to excess. The fulsome praise so annoyed the king that he decided to teach him a lesson. He held a banquet in honor of Damocles but when Damocles saw the sword hanging by a single horse-hair over his head, he lost all taste for the lavish feast. He realized that even those who appear to enjoy great fortune face fears and worries. By the way, the word impending literally means hanging over.

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