Jaws Of Death – What It Means


The phrase “the jaws of death” is an idiom that refers to a dangerous situation. Usually, the words “from the” or “out of” precede this expression (e.g., he was rescued out of the jaws of death).

Example: Richard was standing near the edge of a cliff, when all of a sudden, he lost his balance and fell off! He reached out and grabbed the edge just in time, but he couldn’t pull himself up. As he was shouting for help, his friends ran over and pulled him to safety. Thus, it could be said that Richard was rescued from the jaws of death.

1. A near death experience
2. At death’s door

the phrase - jaws of death.

The Origin Of ‘Jaws Of Death’

Where did the phrase “jaws of death” come from? It’s origin may have something to do with dangerous wild animals because they often use their powerful jaws to kill their prey. For example, bears, crocodiles, hippos, and lions are all examples of animals with sharp teeth and strong jaws. To give you an idea on how powerful these creatures can be, a crocodile’s jaw is strong enough to crush bones! Yes, these animals pack a punch, so be sure to stay away.

Sadly, it’s estimated that around 1,000 people die per year as a result of crocodiles. In Africa, hippos cause around 500 deaths per year. Dangerous, indeed.

Thus, this phrase’s origin might have to do with fearsome animals like these and the deadly jaws they have. After all, if someone managed to escape from them, they would literally have escaped from “the jaws of death.”

Anyways, this expression has existed for at least 400 years. It was used, for example, by William Shakespeare in the play Twelfth Night, written around 1601:

​”This youth that you see here I snatch’d one half out of the jaws of death.”

Sentence Examples

  • Dan was stuck under the car wreckage and was unable to escape. However, firefighters arrived and pulled him out, thus saving him out of the jaws of death.

Similar Examples:

  • This little puppy I found was at death’s door, but my mother was able to nurse him back to health.

Tip: Know Your Phrase has a list of idioms and popular sayings that you can explore. You can learn their meaning and maybe even their origin! How do you find this list? Easy, just scroll to the top and pick a letter from the menu.