This phrase often refers to someone who barely escapes a dangerous situation.
Example: Richard was standing on the edge of a cliff, taking in the wonderful view. Suddenly, his foot slipped and he fell off, but he was able to grab the side of the cliff just in time.
Holding on for his life, he shouted for help. His friends heard him and rushed over, pulling him up to safety. Thus, it could be said that Richard was saved from the jaws of death. In other words, he escaped from a deadly situation.
Note: Usually, the words “from the” or “out of the” precede this expression (e.g., he was rescued out of the jaws of death).
The Origin Of ‘Jaws Of Death’
What comes to mind when thinking about the phrase ‘jaws of death’? Some people might think of the jaws of wild animals. But what kind of animals?
The dangerous ones; creatures such as lions, tigers, crocodiles, bears, hippos, and so on. These mighty beasts are fascinating to see, but you wouldn’t want to get too close, that’s for sure. One of the main ways they kill their prey is by using their jaws and their sharp teeth.
Just to give you an idea on how powerful these animals are, did you know that a crocodile’s jaw is strong enough to crush bones? Yeah, these scaly reptiles pack a punch, so stay away.
Sadly, it’s estimated that around 1,000 people die per year as a result of crocodiles. In addition, another large beast with a massive jaw is the hippo, and it’s said that around 500 people die per year to them in Africa.
Thus, perhaps the origin of this phrase has to do with these dangerous animals and the strong, deadly jaws they have. After all, if a person is attacked by one of them and they end up narrowly escaping, that person would, in effect, have escaped from “the jaws of death.”
Anyways, do you want to know how old this expression is? Let’s take a look:
This phrase has existed for at least 400 years. It was used by William Shakespeare in the play Twelfth Night. This play is believed to have been written around the years 1601-02:
”This youth that you see here I snatch’d one half out of the jaws of death.”
- Dan just crashed his car into a tree and now its on fire! He’s struggling to get out because his seat belt won’t come off; it’s busted. Remarkably, a stranger ran over and cut him loose, saving him out of the jaws of death.
Note: The origins for most idioms and popular sayings cannot be said with a certainty. What’s provided are theories that may be plausible to how a phrase originated, but not necessarily so.
In addition, quotes that contain a particular phrase may be taken from old newspapers, poems, or books that were written centuries ago, but this by no means confirms that the phrase originates from said newspapers, poems, or books. In all likelihood, if an expression is being used in a newspaper, it’s probably already a well known saying and is from an older time.