not a chance: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘not a chance’ mean?

The idiom *not a chance* means there is no possibility or likelihood of something happening or being successful.

Idiom Explorer

The Impossibility Myth

The idiom "not a chance" is a common expression in American English that signifies a complete lack of possibility or probability. It is often used to emphatically state that something is highly unlikely or impossible to happen. This idiomatic phrase is derived from the literal meanings of its constituent words and its usage has evolved over time to become a fixed expression with a specific idiomatic meaning.

The word "not" is a negation that indicates the absence or denial of something. In the context of the idiom, it conveys a strong negative sentiment towards the likelihood of an event or outcome. The word "chance" refers to a possibility or opportunity for something to occur. When combined, the phrase "not a chance" expresses the idea that there is no possibility or opportunity for the desired outcome to happen.

The idiom's origin can be traced back to the English language itself, where similar phrases exist in various forms. One related idiom is "not likely," which is often used interchangeably with "not a chance" to convey extreme unlikelihood. Another similar phrase is "fat chance," which is used sarcastically to suggest that the chances of something happening are exceedingly slim. Similarly, "dog's chance" and "snowball's chance in hell" are idiomatic expressions that also convey a similar sense of extreme unlikelihood.

The phrase "not likely" is used when something is highly improbable or unlikely to happen. It is often used in casual conversation to express doubt or skepticism about the occurrence of a particular event. For example, if someone asks, "Will we finish the project by tomorrow?" a response of "Not likely" indicates that it is highly improbable that the project will be completed on time.

I reject the impossibility of his assertions with disbelief.

The phrase "fat chance" is a sarcastic expression that is used to suggest that the chances of something happening are extremely slim or non-existent. It is often used humorously or ironically to express disbelief or skepticism. For instance, if someone says, "I think I'll win the lottery," a response of "Fat chance" would imply that the chances of winning are very low.

The idiomatic phrase "not a chance" is commonly used in everyday speech and informal writing. It is employed to express disbelief, skepticism, or strong conviction that a certain outcome will not happen. For example, someone might say, "I asked my boss for a raise, but there's not a chance he'll agree to it." In this context, the speaker is emphasizing their belief that the possibility of the boss granting a raise is completely nonexistent.

Due to its highly idiomatic nature, the phrase "not a chance" is not subject to literal interpretation. Its meaning cannot be deduced solely from the individual words it comprises. Instead, its significance is understood through widespread usage and cultural familiarity. The idiom has become ingrained in the linguistic repertoire of English speakers, allowing for efficient communication of certainty or incredulity.

Although the idiom "not a chance" has an established meaning, it should be noted that interpretation and usage of idiomatic expressions can vary across different regions and social groups. It is important to consider context and audience when employing idioms in speech or writing to ensure effective communication.

The idiom "not a chance" is a widely recognized phrase in American English that conveys a strong sense of impossibility or unlikelihood. It has evolved from its literal origins to become an idiomatic expression deeply embedded in the language. While its usage is common and understood by native speakers, careful consideration of context is necessary to ensure effective communication. The phrase's idiomatic nature allows for succinct expression of certainty or skepticism, while its distinctiveness contributes to the richness and diversity of the English language.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom *not a chance* can be used in a sentence:

  1. I asked my boss for a raise, but he looked at me and said, "Not a chance!"
  2. She tried to convince him to go skydiving with her, but he responded, "No way, not a chance!"
  3. My team is going up against the best basketball players in the league, so winning the game? Not a chance!

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