Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Having or providing only the bare essentials: a hand-to-mouth existence.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. having barely enough to survive, being close to poverty

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Precarious; unsettled; depending on present needs.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. providing only bare essentials

Etymologies

from the idiomatic phrase live from hand to mouth (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • It referred to his hand-to-mouth existence as a child, when he and his mother and three younger sisters had moved from trailer park to rented room to apartment to rented house with numbing frequency, depending on whether they had managed to scrape together the money to pay that month’s rent.

    Whispers At Midnight

  • So it feels to me like that inventory at customers has worked its way through, for the most part with some exceptions, and we're now kind of more, I'll call it, hand-to-mouth, depending on what their end demand is.

  • In his short life eleven-year-old Fawad has known more grief than most: his father and brother have been killed, his sister has been abducted, and Fawad and his mother, Mariya, must rely on the charity of family to eke out a hand-to-mouth existence.

    The Book Circle - Born Under a Million Shadows

  • "I used to work in other people's fields, but whatever I got could only provide me with a hand-to-mouth existence," he says.

    Joseph Scott: Irrigation Puts Hunger in Check in Malawi

  • Small children may be exposed by hand-to-mouth and direct oral mouth contact with materials containing BPA.

    Barbara Ficarra: Are Plastic Bottles Toxic?

  • But now they are living on a hand-to-mouth basis, as domestic prices are below international-market prices.

    Sugar Prices Hit 30-Year Highs

  • This is because everyone is living hand-to-mouth, and if you have a bad harvest one year, well, you're stuffed.

    My bright idea: Civilisation is still worth striving for

  • To prepare for the role of Hawkeye he learned to live hand-to-mouth in the forest, skinning animals and building canoes.

    Last of the Mohicans: No 18

  • Earning Rs. 15,000 a month, he lived a hand-to-mouth existence.

    Affordable Housing Projects For India

  • Having gone through some of the shakiest years of in the past three years (getting kicked out of a country where I had made a life, descended down a deep dark hole, lost a beautiful woman, got a job, felt worthy, lost said job in economy crash, traveled for a year hand-to-mouth, and so on) having a physical reminder of our tribulations or to mark our time is a considerable step.

    Revolution and Evolution, Part 1 | Johnny B. Truant

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