Share this entry

Damocles Line breaks: Damo|cles
Pronunciation: /ˈdaməkliːz/

Definition of Damocles in English:

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 an extremely precarious situation.
Example sentences
  • 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.’
  • 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.
  • Christmas day duty, which was being held over our head like a fiscal sword of Damocles, would be no different than any other day.



Pronunciation: /ˌdaməˈkliːən/
Example sentences
  • He had won several trophies during his six-year tenure, and had guided the club into this season's CL, yet this was insufficient to stay the Damoclean sword.
  • Since 1996 he's had no health problems, but he knows the Damoclean sword is dangling over him and could fall at any time.
  • Within this ideology, the function of legislation and the legal system is to enable investigation, uncover signs of suspicious deviance, and create Damoclean legal threats for targeted political associations.

Words that rhyme with Damocles

Empedocles • Sophocles

Definition of Damocles in:

Share this entry


What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources