What’s the meaning of “Sull’orlo dell’abisso”?

Sull’orlo dell’abisso in Italian

Sull’orlo dell’abisso
On the brink of disaster

Literal translationOn the brink of the abyss
MeaningTo be in a very dangerous situation, to be close to ruin
IPA pronunciation/sulˈlɔrlo ˈdellaˈbisso/

This idiom is very commonly found with the verbs essere, to be, and camminare, to walk.

Where does this come from? When you are on the brink of an abyss, you are a step away from a dramatic fall (rovinosa caduta). This idiom is not to be taken literally. In this case, falling means failing or taking a huge risk.

falling man caught by net

For example, you can say…

Federico non si accorse di essere sull’orlo dell’abisso.
Federico did not realize that he is on the brink of disaster.

Stiamo camminando sull’orlo dell’abisso.
We are walking on the brink of disaster.


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