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in the throes

In the midst of, especially of a difficult struggle. For example, The country was in the throes of economic collapse, or We were in the throes of giving a formal dinner when my in-laws arrived. The noun throe, meaning “a severe pang or spasm of pain,” was at first used mainly for such physical events as childbirth or dying. Today it is used both seriously (first example) and more lightly (second example). [Mid-1800s]

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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.