keep one's head above water

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keep one's head above water (third-person singular simple present keeps one's head above water, present participle keeping one's head above water, simple past and past participle kept one's head above water)

  1. (idiomatic) To survive or endure, especially in a situation in which one is struggling to avoid being overwhelmed by adverse financial circumstances.
    • 1650, Edward Marbury, A Commentarie, or Exposition upon the Prophecie of Habakkuk, London, page 195:
      Blessed be God that ministreth ever some comfort to sweeten the calamities of life, and to keep the soul from fainting, to keep the head above water, that the deep waters swallow us not up.
    • 1764, M. C., A Lady of Quality, Each Sex in their Humour or, The Histories of the Families of Brightley, Finch, Fortescue, Shelburne and Stevens, London, p. 20:
      I endeavoured to obtain a mitigation of this severe sentence, by offering myself to engage for the payment of the remaining sum, to preserve my mother's small salary unencumbered; but he interrupted me with the utmost cruelty, by saying . . . it would be pretty well if, for some years, I could keep my own head above water.
    • 1863, James Robert Gilmore (writing as Edmund Kirke), My Southern Friends, Tribune Assoc., ch. 17 [1]:
      Besides, I have had to borrow ten thousand dollars of him to keep my head above water.
    • 1932 Aug. 15, "The Press: Broken Mirror," Time (quoting farewell editorial in Detroit Mirror):
      The capitalist system being one under which a profit must be made by any enterprise that is to keep its head above water, we are forced to call off the fight in this case.
    • 2008 March 24, Ruthie Ackerman, “Tiffany Goes International”, in Forbes, retrieved 19 October 2009:
      Strong sales in Europe and Asia are helping Tiffany keep its head above water at a time when US consumers are holding onto their wallets.

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