Part of speech:
Usually a countable noun.
(Countable nouns, like “bottle,” “piece,” and “decision,” are words for things that can be broken into exact units. You talk about “a bottle,” “three pieces,” and “many decisions.”
Likewise, talk about a hairsbreadth.)
A hairsbreadth is the breadth (width) of a single piece of hair, so it's a really, really tiny distance or really, really tiny space.
You can use "hairsbreadth" as an adjective, also: "a hairsbreadth escape," "a hairsbreadth adjustment."
How to use it:
You can use the word literally ("I slid the saw blade a hairsbreadth to the left,") but it's usually figurative:
Talk about being within a hairsbreadth of something or being a hairsbreadth away from something, meaning you're really, really close, or missing something by a hairsbreadth, meaning you just barely, barely missed it. You can move something a hairsbreadth or change it a hairsbreadth (a teeny, tiny bit,) or talk about "yielding not a hairsbreadth," "swerving not a hairsbreadth," "budging not a hairsbreadth," and so on.
I love an exciting scene in a novel where the main character is hidden, breathless, a hairsbreadth from the villains and listening in on their conversation; The Golden Compass opens like that, and the most exciting scenes in The Witches are like that, too.
The store owner wouldn't budge a hairsbreadth from the posted price of the bed, but we bought it anyway.
Look away from the screen to explain the definition in your own words. You’ll know you understand what "hairsbreadth” means when you can explain it without saying “fraction” or “teeny space."
Think of a time you very narrowly escaped an accident or other disaster, and fill in the blanks: "Thankfully, I escaped _____ by a hairsbreadth as _____."
Example : "Thankfully, I escaped a nasty foot injury by a hairsbreadth as I moved away from the falling jelly jar."
Ambrose Bierce: "A person who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms against himself. He makes his failure certain by himself being the first person to be convinced of it."
1. The opposite of HAIRSBREADTH is
2. If you could just _____ a hairsbreadth from your view, you'd see ours is valid, too.
Answers are below.
To be a sponsor and send your own message to readers of this list, please contact Liesl at Liesl@HiloTutor.com.
Make Your Point is crafted with love and brought to you each day for free by Mrs. Liesl Johnson, M.Ed., a word lover, learning enthusiast, and private tutor of reading and writing in the verdant little town of Hilo, Hawaii. For writing tips, online learning, essay guidance, and more, please visit www.HiloTutor.com.
Disclaimer: Word meanings presented here are expressed in plain language and are limited to common, useful applications only. Readers interested in authoritative and multiple definitions of words are encouraged to check a dictionary. Likewise, word meanings, usage, and pronunciations are limited to American English; these elements may vary across world Englishes.
Answers to review questions:
Subscribe to "Make Your Point" for a daily vocabulary boost.