grasp at straws

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Alternative forms[edit]


This idiom refers to a drowning man grabbing any floating object, even a straw, to save himself. It was first used by Thomas More in A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation (1534).


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grasp at straws (third-person singular simple present grasps at straws, present participle grasping at straws, simple past and past participle grasped at straws)

  1. (idiomatic) To guess randomly or pursue any apparent option, due to a lack of clear choices or information.
    I've never met his mother, so I'm grasping at straws for an appropriate gift for her.
  2. (idiomatic) To get hold of any help, even if it is insignificant.

Derived terms[edit]



  • Titelman, Gregory Y., "The Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" (Random House, New York, 1996).