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under the knife

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Undergoing surgery, as in He was awake the entire time he was under the knife. The phrase is often put as go under the knife meaning “be operated on,” as in When do you go under the knife? Knife standing for “surgery” was first recorded in 1880.

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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.

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