Definition of Damocles in US English:


proper noun

  • A legendary courtier who extravagantly praised the happiness of Dionysius I, ruler of Syracuse. To show him how precarious this happiness was, Dionysius seated him at a banquet with a sword hung by a single hair over his head.


  • sword of Damocles

    • Used to refer to a precarious situation.

      • ‘‘The time is ripe today for the international community to see how the virus constitutes an enormous sword of Damocles in terms of public health and the rural economy,’ Domenech told AFP during an interview.’
      • ‘The size of vessels in modern shipping is such that the sword of Damocles hangs over some of the most beautiful and environmentally sensitive coastline in the UK.’
      • ‘People support roads, although the environment industry tries to make them feel bad about it: the favourite sword of Damocles is global warming and the greenhouse effect.’
      • ‘The murder charge is going to be dangled out there kind of like a sword of Damocles on this defendant, with the hope that they will produce the body.’
      • ‘Based on a survey of the ministry of Labor and Social Security the shortage of migrant workers has developed into a sword of Damocles.’
      • ‘A political crisis may have hovered like the sword of Damocles over American business interests, but on this sunny day the outlook for Sino-Western cooperation couldn't have appeared any brighter.’
      • ‘Nursing staff often have to make on-the-spot decisions and must continue to do so without the sword of Damocles hanging over them.’
      • ‘Christmas day duty, which was being held over our head like a fiscal sword of Damocles, would be no different than any other day.’
      • ‘For years, my permanent record hung over my head like the sword of Damocles.’
      • ‘At various times during baseball's labor disputes, certain labor-friendly senators have held the repeal of the exemption over the owners heads like a sword of Damocles.’
      • ‘This sword of Damocles was hanging over his head and could have fallen at any time during the election and broken our campaign.’
      • ‘They can dangle like the sword of Damocles the notion of the death penalty from a treason charge over this guy's head.’
      • ‘For the rest White will stick with what has served him for the past few weeks, although the sword of Damocles could be hanging over several players.’
      • ‘The uncertainty about funding which is like a sword of Damocles hanging over the organisation's head puts that at risk, she says.’
      • ‘James Sugden, the managing director of Johnstons, one of Scotland's leading cashmere manufacturers, said: ‘This threat still hangs over us like a sword of Damocles.’’
      • ‘Clearly Murdoch intends to keep the issue dangling over the government's head like a political sword of Damocles.’
      • ‘The sword of Damocles in this push is legislation that would subject software vendors to product liability claims.’
      • ‘This ‘appointment’ thing is now hanging over my head like a sword of Damocles.’
      • ‘Looming disaster hangs over the first act like the sword of Damocles, but though there is a frisson as you watch these seemingly unaware people wander round oblivious to the events ahead, things really kick off in the second act.’
      • ‘The sword of Damocles that hangs over our heads is suspended by a thin and flimsy thread, indeed.’