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.

BEHIND THE PHRASE

What does in the throes mean?

In the throes of something means in the midst of something intense, especially a painful situation, a struggle, or a crisis.

The word throes refers to a state or condition of pain or violent convulsions, spasms, or pangs. The singular form throe is a word, and it refers to a pain, pang, or spasm, but it is very rarely used.

The phrase in the throes is especially associated with situations involving physical or emotional pain or agony, as in She is in the throes of childbirth or I was in the throes of grief. 

Sometimes, it’s used in the context of a specific illness, as in When I’m in the throes of the flu, I barely have the energy to get out of bed. It can also be used in the context of a situation that’s an intense struggle, as in The country was in the throes of revolution or Never disturb an artist when they’re in the throes of creation. 

It can also be used in less serious situations to exaggerate their seriousness or intensity, as in We were in the throes of a movie marathon when the power went out. 

Example: We were in the throes of battle when the reinforcements arrived.

Where does in the throes come from?

The first records of the phrase in the throes come from the 1800s. The word throe is much older, first recorded in the 1100s. The origin of the word isn’t certain. It may come from the Old English verb thrōwian, meaning “to suffer” or “to be in pain,” or from the Old English thrāwu, meaning “threat.”

In the throes is often used in situations involving pain or struggle, such as war, childbirth, and grief. To be in the throes of death is to be near death or in the final stages close to the end of something. Though it often involves something serious, in the throes can be used in a somewhat humorous way to exaggerate the seriousness or intensity of a situation.

Did you know ... ?

What are some words that share a root or word element with throes

What are some words that often get used in discussing throes?

How is in the throes used in real life?

In the throes is typically applied to negative situations. It can also be used to exaggerate the intensity or seriousness of a situation.

 

 

Try using in the throes!

Is in the throes used correctly in the following sentence?

We are in the throes of a major crisis, and we need all the help we can get.