by the skin of one's teeth, Informal. by an extremely narrow margin; just barely; scarcely: We made the last train by the skin of our teeth.
    get under one's skin, Slang.
    1. to irritate; bother: His laugh really gets under my skin.
    2. to affect deeply; impress; penetrate: That sort of music always gets under my skin.
    have a thick skin, to be insensitive to criticism or rebuffs: The complaint desk is a job for someone who has a thick skin.
    have a thin skin, to be extremely sensitive to criticism or rebuffs; be easily offended: Be careful what you say to me, I have a thin skin.
    in/with a whole skin, without harm; unscathed; safely: She escaped from the burning building with a whole skin.
    no skin off one's back/nose/teeth, Slang. of no interest or concern or involving no risk to one.
    save one's skin, Informal. to avoid harm, especially to escape death: They betrayed their country to save their skins.
    skin alive, Informal.
    1. to reprimand; scold.
    2. to subdue completely, especially in a cruel or ruthless manner: The home team was skinned alive this afternoon.
    under the skin, in essence; fundamentally; despite appearances or differences: sisters under the skin.

Origin of skin

1150–1200; Middle English (noun) < Old Norse skinn; cognate with dialectal German Schinde skin of fruit
Related formsskin·like, adjectiveun·der·skin, nounun·skinned, adjective

Synonyms for skin

2. fur. Skin, hide, pelt are names for the outer covering of animals, including humans. Skin is the general word: an abrasion of the skin; the skin of a muskrat. Hide applies to the skin of large animals, as cattle, horses, or elephants: a buffalo hide. Pelt applies to the untanned skin of smaller animals: a mink pelt. 4. hull, shell, husk, crust. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for skin alive



  1. the tissue forming the outer covering of the vertebrate body: it consists of two layers (the dermis and epidermis), the outermost of which may be covered with hair, scales, feathers, etc. It is mainly protective and sensory in function
  2. (as modifier)a skin disease See also dermis, epidermis Related adjectives: cutaneous, dermatoid
a person's complexiona fair skin
any similar covering in a plant or lower animal
any coating or film, such as one that forms on the surface of a liquid
unsplit leather made from the outer covering of various mammals, reptiles, etcCompare hide 2 (def. 1)
the outer covering of a fur-bearing animal, dressed and finished with the hair on
a container made from animal skin
the outer covering surface of a vessel, rocket, etc
a person's skin regarded as his lifeto save one's skin
(often plural) informal (in jazz or pop use) a drum
informal short for skinhead
slang a cigarette paper used for rolling a cannabis cigarette
Irish slang a person; sorthe's a good old skin
by the skin of one's teeth by a narrow margin; only just
get under one's skin informal to irritate one
jump out of one's skin to be very startled
no skin off one's nose informal not a matter that affects one adversely
skin and bone extremely thin
thick skin an insensitive nature
thin skin a sensitive nature

verb skins, skinning or skinned

(tr) to remove the outer covering from (fruit, etc)
(tr) to scrape a small piece of skin from (a part of oneself) in falling, etche skinned his knee
(often foll by over) to cover (something) with skin or a skinlike substance or (of something) to become covered in this way
(tr) slang to strip of money; swindle


relating to or for the skinskin cream
slang, mainly US involving or depicting nudityskin magazines
See also skin up
Derived Formsskinless, adjectiveskinlike, adjective

Word Origin for skin

Old English scinn, from Old Norse skinn
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

Word Origin and History for skin alive



c.1200, "animal hide" (usually dressed and tanned), from Old Norse skinn "animal hide, fur," from Proto-Germanic *skintha- (cf. Old English scinn (rare), Old High German scinten, German schinden "to flay, skin;" German dialectal schind "skin of a fruit," Flemish schinde "bark"), from PIE *sken- "to cut off" (cf. Breton scant "scale of a fish," Irish scainim "I tear, I burst"), from root *sek- "to cut" (see section (n.)).

Ful of fleissche Y was to fele, Now ... Me is lefte But skyn & boon. [hymn, c.1430]

The usual Anglo-Saxon word is hide (n.1). Meaning "epidermis of a living animal or person" is attested from early 14c.; extended to fruits, vegetables, etc. late 14c. Jazz slang sense of "drum" is from 1927. Meaning "a skinhead" is from 1970. As an adjective, it formerly had a slang sense of "cheating" (1868); sense of "pornographic" is attested from 1968. Skin deep is first attested in this:

All the carnall beauty of my wife, Is but skin-deep. [Sir Thomas Overbury, "A Wife," 1613; the poem was a main motive for his murder]

The skin of one's teeth as the narrowest of margins is attested from 1550s in the Geneva Bible literal translation of the Hebrew text in Job xix:20. To get under (someone's) skin "annoy" is from 1896. Skin-graft is from 1871. Skin merchant "recruiting officer" is from 1792.



late 14c., "to remove the skin from" (originally of circumcision), from skin (n.). As "to have (a particular kind of) skin" from c.1400. In 19c. U.S. colloquial use, "to strip, fleece, plunder;" hence skin-game, one in which one player has no chance against the others (as with a stacked deck), the type of con game played in a skin-house. Skin the cat in gymnastics is from 1845. Related: Skinned; skinning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

skin alive in Medicine




The membranous tissue forming an external protective covering or integument of an animal and consisting of the epidermis and dermis.


To bruise, cut, or injure the skin of.
Related formsskinless adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

skin alive in Science



The outer covering of a vertebrate animal, consisting of two layers of cells, a thick inner layer (the dermis) and a thin outer layer (the epidermis). Structures such as hair, scales, or feathers are contained in the skin, as are fat cells, sweat glands, and sensory receptors. Skin provides a protective barrier against disease-causing microorganisms and against the sun's ultraviolet rays. In warm-blooded animals, it aids in temperature regulation, as by insulating against the cold.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

skin alive in Culture


The external tissue that covers the body. As the body's largest organ (it makes up about one twenty-fifth of an adult's weight), the skin serves as a waterproof covering that helps keep out pathogens and protects against temperature extremes and sunlight. The skin also contains special nerve endings that respond to touch, pressure, heat, and cold. The skin has an outer layer, or epidermis, and a layer immediately below, called the dermis.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with skin alive

skin alive

Punish severely, as in If I find the guy who slashed my tire I'll skin him alive. This hyperbolic expression transfers the barbaric practice of flaying a live prisoner to other forms of punishment. [Colloquial mid-1800s]


In addition to the idioms beginning with skin

  • skin alive
  • skin and bones
  • skin deep
  • skin off one's nose
  • skin of one's teeth

also see:

  • beauty is only skin deep
  • by the skin of one's teeth
  • get under someone's skin
  • jump out of one's skin
  • make one's flesh creep (skin crawl)
  • more than one way to skin a cat
  • no skin off one's nose
  • save one's bacon (skin)
  • soaked to the skin
  • thick skin
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.