• synonyms


  1. offering or providing the barest livelihood, sustenance, or support; meager; precarious: a hand-to-mouth existence.
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Origin of hand-to-mouth

First recorded in 1500–10
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for hand-to-mouth

Historical Examples

  • Ah, if only we had something better to expect than this hand-to-mouth existence!

    To Tell You the Truth

    Leonard Merrick

  • Yes, by my pen will I live; if it is a hand-to-mouth existence, it is at least free.

    Mohawks, Volume 1 of 3

    Mary Elizabeth Braddon

  • They are all hand-to-mouth working men: they live by the job when they can get any.

  • But this nomadic, hand-to-mouth life could not go on indefinitely.

  • Hand-to-mouth is a bad principle when you have a growing child.'

    Grey Roses

    Henry Harland

British Dictionary definitions for hand-to-mouth


adjective, adverb
  1. with barely enough money or food to satisfy immediate needsa hand-to-mouth existence
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Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012