Skin of my teeth

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Skin of my teeth (Hebrew: ע֣וֹר שִׁנָּֽי‘ō-wr šin-nāy) is a phrase from the Bible. In Job 19:20, the King James Version of the Bible says, "My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth." In the Geneva Bible, the phrase is rendered as "I have escaped with the skinne of my tethe."[1]

The verse from Job 19:20 can be resolved as follows: In the first clause, the author uses the Hebrew `or in its usual sense of "skin", associating it with "flesh" and "bones". In the second clause, he uses the Hebrew or as derived from the Arabic ghar / "the bones in which the teeth are set (Os Maxilla and Os Mandíbula)". Therefore, the correct reading is: "My skin and flesh cling to my bones, and I am left with (only) my skull," giving us a stark description of the advanced stage of Job's disease.[2]

In modern times, "by the skin of my teeth" is used to describe a situation from which one has barely managed to escape or achieve something.[3][4]

Cultural references to the phrase[edit]

  • Skin o' My Tooth – 1928 book by Baroness Emma Orczy in which the phrase is a nickname of the main character, a lawyer; the nickname is given by a client who says that he was freed "by the skin o' my tooth"
  • The Skin of Our Teeth – 1942 play by Thornton Wilder with multiple Biblical allusions
  • "Skin o' My Teeth" – song on Megadeth's 1992 album Countdown to Extinction, referring to the theme of a suicide attempt
  • a reference to the quote in the song Alone, the 3rd track on Biting Elbows' 2020 album Shortening the Longing, talking about a bad break-up situation

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The meaning and origin of the expression: By the skin of your teeth". The Phrase Finder. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
  2. ^ Blumenthal, David R. (1966). "A Play on Words in the Nineteenth Chapter of Job" (PDF). Vetus Testamentum. 16: 497–501.
  3. ^ Cohen, Israel "izzy", Teaching English to Hebrew Speakers, Petah Tikva, Israel, archived from the original (Microsoft Word) on 7 March 2014
  4. ^ "By the skin of one's teeth". Grammarist.