English : Sword Of Damocles

What is the meaning and origin of the expression Sword Of Damocles?

King Dionysius the Elder ruled over the ancient kingdom of Syracuse in 4th Century BC. Damocles was one of the courtiers in this kingdom and he spent most of his time flattering the King. Damocles was one those who believed that being a king was the easiest thing in the world. He thought the job involved eating good food, drinking good wine and in general having a wonderful time. In order to teach this courtier a lesson, King Dionysius invited him to a banquet. The food served was delicious and music played was lovely. Unfortunately, Damocles was unable to enjoy any of these things because unlike the other guests he found himself seated under a sword - a sword which was hanging by single horsehair. Damocles was afraid that the hair would snap at any time resulting in the sword falling on his head. This was the Dionysius' way of showing Damocles that although a king may be surrounded by luxury, he has little or no time to really enjoy them. The king's life is very precarious - as precarious as a man who has a sword hanging over his head.

So, when you say that a sword of Damocles hangs over someone, it means that something bad is going to happen to that person, although it may not happen immediately, just the thought of it causes a lot of worry for the person concerned.

• When Govind was told that he had tested HIV positive, he began to feel that he was living with a sword of Damocles hanging over his head.

• Salman lives with a sword of Damocles hanging over his head, knowing that the Mumbai Don was after him.

• The possibility of his not getting a job hung over him like a sword of Damocles all spring.

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COURTESY : The Hindu (The National News-Paper) - India

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