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drop like flies

Rapidly collapse, die, or drop out, usually referring to a group rather than an individual. For example, The words were so difficult that the spelling bee contestants were dropping like flies. The simile like flies has meant “in large numbers,” as it does in this expression, since about 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.