Health, illness, and death

alive and kicking

If someone or something is alive and kicking they are still active or still exist.

Romance is still alive and kicking for a couple who will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this week.

The twins want to let everyone know who has written to them that they are alive and kicking.

at death’s door

If someone is at death’s door they are seriously ill and likely to die.

He has won five golf competitions in three months, a year after being at death’s door.

NOTE: You can also say that someone is near death’s door.

The singer said he was ‘active and feeling very well’ as he responded to reports that he was near death’s door.

NOTE: You can say that someone comes back from death’s door or is brought back from death’s door when they have recovered from a very serious illness.

The patient has been brought back from death’s door by the new treatment, say his doctors.

a clean bill of health

If someone is given or gets a clean bill of health they are told that they are completely fit and healthy.

NOTE: A bill of health was a certificate which was given to a ship’s captain to present at the next port the ship arrived at. It stated whether or not there was an infectious disease aboard the ship or in the port it was departing from.

He had a full medical examination late last year and was given a clean bill of health.

be dropping like flies

If people are dropping like flies, large numbers of them are falling ill or dying within a short period of time.

Actors his age – many of them friends – were dropping like flies.

end it all

If someone ends it all they kill themselves.

Boring, grey stage lighting can be ideal if your heroine is just about to end it all.

NOTE:  This expression is usually used in a humorous way.

be fighting for your life

If someone is fighting for their life they are seriously ill or injured and are in danger of dying.

A boy aged 15 was fighting for his life last night but two younger children were said to be out of danger.

NOTE: You can also talk about a fight for life.

Mary won a desperate fight for life and went on to make a full recovery.

kick the bucket

If someone kicks the bucket they die. [INFORMAL]

NOTE: The origins of this expression are uncertain. One suggestion is that the ‘bucket’ was a wooden frame which was used when killing livestock. The animals were hung from the bucket by their back legs. After they had been killed their legs often continued to twitch and kick against the bucket. Ironically, this expression is now used in a humorous way.

Our neighbor is about to kick the bucket – he has some sort of kidney infection.

knock someone for six

  1. If something knocks you for six it shocks or upsets you so much that you have difficulty recovering. [BRITISH, INFORMAL]

The emotional shock of losing a parent can knock you for six.

  1. If an illness knocks you for six it causes you to be very ill and weak for a long time.

I picked up a virus that knocked me for six. I lost a stone in weight in two weeks.

NOTE: In cricket, six runs are scored when a batsman hits the ball so that it lands outside the playing area without bouncing. When this happens you can say the bowler has been hit for six.

a shadow of your former self

If someone is a shadow of their former self they are very much thinner than they used to be.

I couldn’t believe how much weight she’d lost – she’s a shadow of her former self.

skin and bone or skin and bones

If you describe someone as skin and bone or skin and bones you mean that they are very thin, usually because they are ill.

A man like me can’t live on beans – I’ll soon be skin and bone.

By the end of her life she was nothing but skin and bones.

under the weather

If you are under the weather you are feeling ill.

I’d been feeling a bit under the weather for a couple of weeks.

a wake-up call

A wake-up call is something which shocks people, making them understand how serious a problem is and causing them to take action in order to solve that problem.

NOTE: If you have a wake-up call, you arrange for someone to telephone you at a certain time in the morning so that you are sure to wake up at that time.

The report should be a wake-up call for governments around the world to take action to improve healthcare resources for young people.

the worse for wear

If someone is the worse for wear they are tired or injured.

In the fourth round both fighters suffered cuts over the eyes, and the champion was beginning to look the worse for wear.

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