Hang by a thread

Hang by a thread

If a serious situation hangs by a thread, it means that even a slight change can decide what will happen and that a bad result such as death, failure, etc. is likely.

The mayor’s political future has been hanging by a thread since the fraud scandal.

Cambridge Dictionary

In the context of conveying the fragility and precariousness of life, the three expressions are essentially the same:

“Life hangs by the thread”
“Life hangs by the slender thread”
“Life hangs by the silken thread”

These phrases all convey the idea that life is delicate and could easily be disrupted or lost. The use of “slender” and “silken” in the latter two expressions adds a poetic or metaphorical touch, emphasizing the thin and fragile nature of the thread on which life is imagined to hang. The variations in the adjectives don’t change the core meaning; they just add nuances to the imagery.

“On the line” and “Hangs by a thread”

While both expressions convey a sense of precariousness or vulnerability, they are not exactly the same.

“Hangs by a thread” typically implies extreme fragility, as if something is barely holding on and could easily break or be lost. This phrase often conveys a sense of imminent danger or a delicate situation.

“On the line” generally suggests that something is at risk or in a critical state, but it doesn’t necessarily imply the same level of extreme fragility as “hangs by a thread.” It can refer to being in a situation where the outcome is uncertain, and there might be consequences or risks involved.

In summary, both expressions convey a sense of risk or vulnerability, but “hangs by a thread” specifically emphasizes a very fragile and precarious state, while “on the line” is a more general expression for being in a critical or risky situation.

On the line
If something such as your job, career, or reputation is on the line, you may lose or harm it as a result of what you are doing or of the situation you are in.

He wouldn’t put his career on the line to help a friend.
Synonyms: at risk, in danger, in an endangered position, in jeopardy More Synonyms of on the line

Collins Dictionary

Be on the line

To be at risk

Almost 3,000 jobs have been lost recently, and a further 3,000
are on the line.

Cambridge Dictionary

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