lifeline

A lifeline is a safety feature on a boat, a rope that either protects you from falling off or that you can throw to someone who's drowning. If you stumble off your friend's sailboat into the water, she'll throw you a lifeline.

When sailors need to rescue a swimmer or a clumsy passenger, it helps to have a lifeline handy. And when you receive other kinds of vital support or help — a mobile phone, or a job recommendation, or a scholarship for college, for example — you can also call them lifelines. This figurative meaning has been around since the 19th century, while the "live-saving rope" definition is the earliest one, from about 1700.

Definitions of lifeline
  1. noun
    line thrown from a vessel that people can cling to in order to save themselves from drowning
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    types:
    ridge rope
    either of a pair of lifelines running alongside the bowsprit of a ship
    type of:
    line
    something (as a cord or rope) that is long and thin and flexible
  2. noun
    line that raises or lowers a deep-sea diver
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    type of:
    line
    something (as a cord or rope) that is long and thin and flexible
  3. noun
    support that enables people to survive or to continue doing something (often by providing an essential connection)
    “the airlift provided a lifeline for Berlin”
    “she offered me a lifeline in my time of grief”
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    type of:
    support
    something providing immaterial assistance to a person or cause or interest
  4. noun
    a crease on the palm; its length is said by palmists to indicate how long you will live
    synonyms: life line, line of life
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    type of:
    crease, crinkle, furrow, line, seam, wrinkle
    a slight depression in the smoothness of a surface
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