keep his head above water


      • survive
        To manage to survive, especially in a difficult or challenging situation, such as financial hardship or overwhelming responsibilities

      • cope
        To deal with a difficult or demanding situation, often by just managing to stay afloat and not be overwhelmed

    Examples of keep his head above water

    • Despite losing his job and struggling to pay bills, John was determined to keep his head above water and not fall into debt.

      In this example, "keep his head above water" means John is managing to meet his basic needs and avoid financial troubles, just like staying afloat inWater.

    • With the constant medical treatments and bills, it's a challenge for Sarah to keep her head above water and not feel overwhelmed.

      Here, "keep her head above water" signifies Sarah's efforts to cope with the challenges and expenses of her medical treatment without being overcome by them.

    • As a new business owner, Marcia is working tirelessly to keep her head above water and make ends meet during this initial phase.

      In this example, "keep her head above water" refers to Marcia's persistent efforts to keep her business afloat during its early, struggling stage.

    • After a serious accident, it took months for Tom to regain his strength and learn to walk again. During his recovery, Tom struggled to keep his head above water and maintain his optimistic outlook.

      Here, "keep his head above water" implies that Tom was able to maintain a positive perspective and remain hopeful during the difficult process of healing and recovery.

    • John has been working two jobs to keep his head above water after losing his primary source of income.

      This idiom refers to staying financially solvent in the midst of financial hardship. In this example, John has lost his main source of income and is now working multiple jobs to ensure that he can cover his expenses and avoid falling into debt or financial ruin.

    • Sarah has been studying for exams non-stop, determined to keep her head above water in her academic pursuits.

      The use of this idiom in an academic context reminds us that, much like in finances, there are moments in learning when it can feel as though one is struggling to stay afloat. In this example, Sarah is working hard to maintain a level of academic performance that will allow her to succeed in her studies and avoid falling behind.

    • As a first-time entrepreneur, Tom has faced a lot of challenges in his business, but he's been doing everything he can to keep his head above water and turn his venture into a success.

      In this example, the idiom is being used to represent a person's efforts to stay afloat in the challenging world of entrepreneurship. Tom's determination to keep his head above water in this context highlights his commitment to ensuring that his business remains financially solvent and that he doesn't end up drowning in debt or bankruptcy.

    • Despite the storm that raged around her, Emily managed to keep her head above water and steer her boat to safety.

      This example uses the idiom in a literal context, but it's still a great illustration of how the phrase can be used to represent staying afloat in the midst of challenge or adversity. In this instance, Emily's ability to keep her head above water while navigating a stormy sea serves as a metaphor for her resilience and determination in the face of significant challenges.


    The idiom "keep his head above water" is often used to describe someone's ability to survive or cope with a difficult situation. It can be used in situations where someone is facing financial hardship, overwhelming responsibilities, or other challenges. The idiom emphasizes the idea of just managing to stay afloat and not be overwhelmed by the situation.

    People use this idiom to show that someone is struggling to survive or cope, but they are managing to do so despite the difficulties they are facing. It highlights the resilience and determination of the person in question.

    Origin of "keep his head above water"

    The origin of the idiom "keep his head above water" can be traced back to the literal act of trying to stay alive in water. When someone is swimming or treading water, they need to keep their head above the water to breathe and avoid drowning. This physical act has been used metaphorically to describe someone's ability to survive or cope with challenges.

    The idiom likely originated from the observation of people struggling to stay afloat in water, and the metaphorical usage developed from there. Over time, it became a common phrase to describe the resilience and determination of individuals facing difficult circumstances. The idiom has been used in this figurative sense for many years and continues to be a popular way to express the idea of surviving or coping with challenges.