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Hold your horses

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Hold your horses", sometimes said as "Hold the horses", is an English-language idiom meaning "wait, slow down". The phrase is historically related to horse riding or travelling by horse, or driving a horse-drawn vehicle. A number of explanations, all unverified, have been offered for the origins of the phrase, dating back to usage in Ancient Greece.

The saying is typically used when someone is rushing into something. "Cool your jets" is an essentially identical idiom. However it also has a more literal meaning and in certain circumstances is the preferred idiom to use. "Hold your horses" literally means to keep your horse(s) still, not to be confused with holding them in a stable. Someone is to slow down when going too fast,[1] or to wait a moment, or to be more careful,[2] or to be patient before acting.

It is usually followed up with an explanation to demonstrate why you should wait.[3] For example, "Hold your horses, we have not won yet, so don't start celebrating."[4] and "Hold your horses, you haven't thought about this yet" or "Hold your horses, you might find a better one for the same price in another store"[5] or "Hold your horses. We're almost there."[2]


There are several sources documenting the usage of "hold your horses"

    • In Book 23 of the Iliad, Homer writes "Hold your horses!" when referring to Antilochus driving like a maniac in a chariot race that Achilles initiates in the funeral games for Patroclus.[6][7]
    • During the noise of battle, a Roman soldier would hold his horses.
    • After the invention of gunpowder, the Chinese would have to hold their horses because of the noise.
  • Idiomatic meaning:
    • A 19th-century United States origin, where it was written as 'hold your hosses' ("hoss" being a US slang term for horse) and appears in print that way many times from 1843 onwards. It is also the first attested usage in the idiomatic meaning.[8] Example: from Picayune (New Orleans) in September 1844, "Oh, hold your hosses, Squire. There's no use gettin' riled, no how."[9]
    • In Chatelaine, 1939, the modern spelling arises: "Hold your horses, dear."[9]
    • The term may have originated from army artillery units. Example: Hunt and Pringle's Service Slang (1943) quotes "Hold your horses, hold the job until further orders".[9]
    • Dave Chappelle used the figurative term on his show towards Jim Brewer in a marijuana commercial
    • Other explanations come from its relation to stability and maintaining stability.


  1. ^ "Idiom: Hold your horses". UsingEnglish.com. If someone tells you to hold your horses, you are doing something too fast and they would like you to slow down.
  2. ^ a b "Interjection: hold your horses". WordWeb Online.
  3. ^ "hold your horses". Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms. Cambridge University Press. 2003. Usage notes: usually used as an instruction, as in the example 'Hold your horses, Colin, I'm working as fast as I can!'
  4. ^ "Hold Your Horses Idiom". The Idioms.
  5. ^ "Hold One's Horses". Brigham Young University. 15 February 2002. Archived from the original on 11 May 2006.
  6. ^ Homer. The Iliad. Translated by A.T. Murray. Book 23, Lines 423–429. But Antilochus turned aside his single-hooved horses, and drave on outside the track, and followed after him, a little at one side. [425] And the son of Atreus was seized with fear, and shouted to Antilochus: "Antilochus, thou art driving recklessly; nay, rein in thy horses! Here is the way straitened, but presently it will be wider for passing; lest haply thou work harm to us both by fouling my car."
  7. ^ Homer. The Iliad. Translated by Ian Johnston. Book 23, Lines 516–522. But Antilochus guided his sure-footed horses off the track, charging up a little to one side. Atreus' son, alarmed, shouted at Antilochus: 'Antilochus, you're driving like an idiot! Pull your horses back! The road's too narrow. It gets wider soon—you can pass me there! Watch you don't hit me. You'll make us crash!'
  8. ^ "hold, v." OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 2 August 2015.
  9. ^ a b c "Hold your horses". The Phrase Finder. Retrieved 6 February 2013.