The idiom “run for one’s life” is used to describe a situation where someone is fleeing in terror or running away as fast as possible, usually from an imminent threat. The expression carries a connotation of urgency and desperation, illustrating a scenario where one’s survival is dependent upon the swiftness of their escape.
The phrase is commonly utilized in contexts where individuals find themselves in perilous situations, necessitating rapid escape to evade danger.
For example, one might say, “When the fire broke out in the building, everyone had to run for their lives.”
Run for One’s Life Idiom Origins
The term is an instance of hyperbole, where there are certainly instances where the act of running is quite literally tied to preserving one’s life. But over time, it’s been used for less literal purposes.
Here’s a deep dive into its origin:
- Historical Contexts: Throughout history, there have been numerous circumstances, such as wars, natural disasters, and encounters with predatory animals, where individuals were forced to flee hastily to avoid imminent peril. These high-stakes scenarios wherein a person’s life truly depended on their ability to run away swiftly have woven this phrase into linguistic usage.
- Literal to Figurative: While initially used to describe literally life-threatening situations, “run for one’s life” gradually transcended into a metaphorical idiom, being used in various contexts where urgent action is required, even if one’s life is not literally in danger.
Currently, “run for one’s life” is utilized in a myriad of contexts, both literally and figuratively, indicating situations of urgency and the necessity of prompt action. As you can see from Google’s historical data, this idiom has been popular since at least the early 19th Century, and probably longer:
10 Examples in a Sentence
- “When the earthquake started, people began to run for their lives.”
- “I had to run for my life when I saw the swarm of bees heading my way.”
- “When the bank robbers pulled out their guns, everyone in the vicinity ran for their lives.”
- “The movie scene depicted soldiers running for their lives from a massive explosion.”
- “He ran for his life when he saw the approaching tornado.”
- “During the volcanic eruption, residents of the town ran for their lives to escape the flowing lava.”
- “In the horror movie, the protagonist ran for her life from the terrifying creature.”
- “Upon hearing the gunshots, people in the crowded square began to run for their lives.”
- “The hikers had to run for their lives when they noticed the landslide starting above them.”
- “She ran for her life after the threatening figure emerged from the shadows.”
1. A close shave
Definition: A situation where danger or problems are narrowly avoided.
In a Sentence: “We had a close shave when the car almost hit us.”
2. By the skin of one’s teeth
Definition: Barely managing to succeed at something.
In a Sentence: “He passed the exam by the skin of his teeth.”
3. Escape by the skin of one’s teeth
Definition: To narrowly avoid disaster.
In a Sentence: “The hiker escaped the bear by the skin of his teeth.”
4. Dodge a bullet
Definition: To narrowly avoid a bad situation.
In a Sentence: “She dodged a bullet when she missed the flight that later crashed.”
5. A narrow escape
Definition: Managing to avoid danger or undesirable outcomes by a small margin.
In a Sentence: “We had a narrow escape when the burglars left just minutes before we arrived home.”
6. In the nick of time
Definition: Just at the last possible moment; just in time.
In a Sentence: “He turned in his assignment in the nick of time.”
7. A race against time
Definition: Acting fast to prevent something bad from happening.
In a Sentence: “The rescue team was in a race against time to find the lost climbers.”
8. A close call
Definition: A situation where harm or trouble is narrowly avoided.
In a Sentence: “The near-accident was a close call.”
9. On thin ice
Definition: In a precarious or risky situation.
In a Sentence: “After that mistake, he’s really on thin ice with the boss.”
10. Play with fire
Definition: To act in a way that is very risky or dangerous.
In a Sentence: “Investing all your money in a single stock is like playing with fire.”