Most of us are fortunate enough these days to not have to live hand-to-mouth but for many in the world now and in the past, this was a reality.
Living hand-to-mouth or on the breadline is a hard existence where you never know where your next meal is coming from and might just have enough to get by, but nothing more.
The phrase comes from when times were hard in the past and during a great famine back in the 16th century in Britain.
Record numbers of people at these times had precious little food to eat due to the famine, and so whenever they got a piece of food they would literally put it straight from hand to mouth to ensure that no-one else could take it and eat it before them, such was the desperation for some food.
And hence the origin of the phrase living hand-to-mouth, from those who literally did.Back to Phrase Finder
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