Living on borrowed time


      • living on borrowed time
        Having continued to survive or exist longer than expected, especially after a near-death experience or terminal diagnosis

      • doing something that won't last
        Engaging in an activity or lifestyle that is unsustainable or temporary

    Examples of Living on borrowed time

    • John's cancer diagnosis was a shock, and the doctors told him that he was living on borrowed time.

      This idiom means that John's health is precarious, and he may not have much longer to live. The image is of someone who is borrowing time, as though they have run out of their allotted time to live and have been given an extension that will eventually come to an end.

    • After a heart attack, the doctor warned Sarah that she was living on borrowed time.

      Similarly to John, Sarah's health is in a critical state, and she may not have long to live. The idea behind this idiom is that time has been granted to the person for an extended period, but it is not a permanent loan, and eventually, it will have to be returned.

    • The mayor's political career has been hanging by a thread for years, and many believe that he's living on borrowed time.

      This example offers a different context for the idiom. In this case, the person's circumstances can change rapidly, and it's unclear how long they will be able to maintain their current situation. The extended period of time is being granted to them in pieces, and they must constantly prove themselves in order to keep the borrowed time.

    • After the business suffered a significant loss, the investors were told that they were living on borrowed time.

      Finally, this example provides insight into how the idiom can be used in a financial context. The business has been allowed to continue operation beyond the time that it should have been able to do so, and it is running on funds borrowed from investors. The investors understand that the borrowed time will eventually run out, and the business may be in serious trouble.Overall, this idiom is used when someone's future is uncertain or in a state of precariousness, indicating that their time is finite and they may not have much longer to live, survive, or maintain their current circumstances.

    • The doctor told the patient that he has been living on borrowed time. His health is deteriorating rapidly, and he may not have much longer to live.

      In this example, "living on borrowed time" is being used metaphorically to describe a person who is extremely ill and has a very limited time left to live. The person is essentially living each day as a gift, as they have been granted additional time beyond what they were originally expected to have. ANOTHER

    • The company's financial situation has been precarious for months now. They're living on borrowed time and it's only a matter of time before they finally collapse.

      This example shows the idiom being used in a different context, this time to describe a business that is struggling financially and is operating with a negative balance sheet. The company has been granted additional time beyond what would normally be expected, but if they don't turn things around soon, they won't be able to keep going. THIRD

    • The ancient temple stood there, a relic of a bygone era. It had been living on borrowed time for centuries, and it was only a matter of time before it finally crumbled to dust.

      In this example, "living on borrowed time" is being used to describe something that has lasted a very long time, but which is now in a precarious state. The temple has been standing for centuries, but it is only a matter of time before it ultimately falls apart due to its age and lack of upkeep.


    The idiom "living on borrowed time" is used to convey the idea of being in a situation where one's continued existence or actions are not expected to last long. It can refer to surviving beyond a predicted time of death or engaging in activities that are not sustainable in the long run.

    People may use this idiom to describe someone who has survived a serious illness or accident and is now living beyond the time that was initially expected. It can also be used to caution against engaging in activities or lifestyles that are not viable in the long term.

    Overall, the idiom "living on borrowed time" is a powerful way to convey the precarious nature of one's existence or actions, emphasizing the temporary and unsustainable nature of the situation.

    Origin of "Living on borrowed time"

    The origin of the idiom "living on borrowed time" can be traced back to the concept of borrowing something with the understanding that it must be returned at a later time. In this case, the "time" refers to the duration of one's life or the continuation of certain activities.

    The expression likely originated as a metaphor to convey the idea of someone or something existing beyond its expected or allotted time. It may have gained popularity as a way to describe individuals who have survived life-threatening situations or events.

    Overall, the idiom "living on borrowed time" captures the sense of living or acting in a way that is not sustainable or expected to last, drawing on the notion of borrowed resources that must eventually be returned.