hair's breadth » hare’s breath

Classification: English – idiom-related

Spotted in the wild:

  • A poorly made soldered joint for example may appear to be satisfactory at the fill pressure, and detection will only be possible if the pressure is raised. Such a joint is often said to be ‘hanging by a hare’s breath’, and needs additional pressure to expose the fault. (Marley Plumbing and Drainage)
  • OPEC increased its estimate for demand for its oil by around 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 28.7 million bpd for the first quarter, and to 28.5 million bpd for the rest of the year. This is a hare’s breath short of the 29 million bpd average the cartel produced last year, but even that figure is likely to be a conservative estimate. (Daily Star, January 24, 2005)
  • Putting Freight Customers First has been our goal since our first five-year lease with the West Virginia State Rail Authority. Reliable and responsive freight hauling has been restored to a line that was within a hare’s breath of abandonment. (
  • This is the point where he will make his first realistic offer. If you still think the price is too high then reciprocate with your final counter offer and see if he budges. Make it just a hare’s breath higher than your original offer and gauge his reaction. (Cruise Guide: How to bargain?)

Analyzed or reported by:

Even though the meaning of the expression _a hair’s breadth_ would not appear in any way obscure, the substitution _a hare’s breath_ turns out to be rather common.

In the lyrics song _Millimetres_ by Spectre Descalier, we find an example that does not look like a deliberate pun (to me — corrections are welcome):

> Millimetres have it
Millimetre measure it
Millimetres a distance
Millimetres a decision
>A cats whisker
Within a stone throw
A hare’s breath
As good as you know

_Hare’s breath_ is commoner than the supposedly simpler substitution _hare’s breadth_.

| link | entered by Chris Waigl, 2005/02/09 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by Rafael Montserrat , 2006/07/24 at 6:10 pm

    I came to the right place. Though a writer, I have never before felt the need to use this phrase, while I have heard it spoken all my life. Sometimes Google is a better dictionary than Webster. I came looking for spelling, and then wondered what exactly the phrase means.

    I like ‘hair’s breadth’ - “the distance or measurement from side to side of something; width” (Apple Dictionary) rather than ‘hare’s breath’. The width of a hair is tiny.

    Hair’s breadth is akin to “close call”, a noun: ‘a narrow escape from danger or disaster’. “He came within a hair’s breadth of driving off the cliff. It was a close call.” My sentences.

    A ‘hare’s breath’…what is that, the distance the breath travels from the rabbit’s mouth?

    OK. With 28.5 million bpd compared to 29 million bpd, what does it matter, a hares breath or a hair’s breadth?

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