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by the sweat of one's brow

By hard work, as in The only way he'll succeed is by the sweat of his brow. This figurative usage appears in the Bible (Genesis 31:9), where Adam's punishment for eating fruit in Eden is “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread”—that is, he will have to work for his bread, or living. [c. 1600]

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.