If you’re startled by a snake that sneaks past you in a creek, you might squeak “eek!” “Eek” is just a noise you make when frightened.

But if you are barely squeaking by on a slim salary, you’re trying to eke out a living. The original meaning of “eke” was “increase,” but today it is used mainly in phrases having to do with supplementing or stretching resources or otherwise obtaining with difficulty: lost campers eke out their food until they are found, in a down market a few stocks eke out gains, and struggling athletic teams eke out narrow victories.

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