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head above water, keep one's

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Stay out of trouble, especially financial difficulties; also, keep up with work or other demands. For example, With new bills coming in every day they're barely keeping their heads above water, or The work's piling up, but I manage to keep my head above water. This expression alludes to keeping oneself from drowning. [Early 1700s] Also see in deep.

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Words nearby head above water, keep one's

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

MORE ABOUT HEAD ABOVE WATER KEEP ONE S

What does keep one’s head above water mean?

The figurative phrase keep one’s head above water most often means to manage to have enough money to pay bills or debts, as in I’m keeping my head above water on the bills now, but if the rent goes up, I’ll drown.

Keep one’s head above water is also used to mean to keep up with work or other commitments, as in The team had to work as fast as possible to keep their heads above water.  

You might also see the variation hold one’s head above water to mean the same.

Example: Tony hopes he has enough savings to keep his head above water while he looks for a new job. 

Where does keep one’s head above water come from?

The first records of keep one’s head above water come from around 1603. The phrase alludes to a person struggling to stay afloat in the water so that they don’t drown.

Typically, you would use the phrase keep one’s head above water when someone is struggling to pay their bills or is one bad event from total disaster. This phrase almost always refers to financial problems.

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What are some other forms related to keep one’s head above water?

  • hold one’s head above water

What are some words that share a root or word element with keep one’s head above water

What are some words that often get used in discussing keep one’s head above water?

How is keep one’s head above water used in real life?

Keep one’s head above water is a common phrase that is often used by people who are facing hard times.

Try using keep one’s head above water!

True or False?

To keep one’s head above water means to have no money to pay one’s bills.

How to use head above water, keep one's in a sentence

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