Did you hear someone say ‘fools rush in’ and you’re wondering what it means? In this article, we’re going to look at the meaning, origin, and example sentences of this phrase.
In brief, though, ‘fools rush in’ is a saying that implies that inexperienced people will be quick to involve themselves in circumstances that a wiser person would know to steer clear of. The complete proverb is ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread.’
‘Fools rush in’ is a shortened version of the proverb ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread.’ The meaning of this is that inexperienced or ignorant people tend to involve themselves in situations that a wiser individual would avoid. People will commonly shorten the full proverb to ‘fools rush in’ to imply the full adage.
To put it another way, this phrase means that people that are foolish make their decisions quickly without giving them serious thought. For example, when a situation is dangerous or best to be avoided, a foolish person isn’t able to understand this so that they aren’t afraid to do things that more sensible people would be frightened of.
The full proverb ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread’ is attributed to Alexander Pope, an Enlightenment-era English poet, translator, and satirist. In his 1711 work An Essay on Criticism, Pope wrote:
"Such shameless Bards we have; and yet 'tis true,
There are as mad, abandon'd Criticks too.
The Bookful Blockhead, ignorantly read,
With Loads of Learned Lumber in his Head,
With his own Tongue still edifies his Ears,
And always List'ning to Himself appears.
All Books he reads, and all he reads assails,
From Dryden's Fables down to Durfey's Tales.
With him, most Authors steal their Works, or buy;
Garth did not write his own Dispensary.
Name a new Play, and he's the Poet's Friend,
Nay show'd his Faults - but when wou'd Poets mend?
No Place so Sacred from such Fops is barr'd,
Nor is Paul’s Church more safe than Paul’s Church-yard:
Nay, fly to Altars; there they’ll talk you dead;
For Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.”
A number of other famous quotes come from this same poem. These include:
Many of the ideas in this poem existed from at least 1706 in prose, and Pope wrote the first fragmentary drafts in 1707. Written in the Horatian mode of satire and composed in heroic couplets, the poem is said to represent many of the major literary ideas of the age in which Pope was writing.
The proverb became so well known that people still to this day will shorten it to ‘fools rush in’ because it is assumed that the listener is aware of the full quote.
‘Fools Rush In’ appears numerous times in 20th-century pop culture, serving as the name for the following films, plays, and songs:
When Alexander Pope first wrote these words, the word ‘fool’ wasn’t as much of a derogatory insult as it is today. A fool is a person that someone that had behaved foolishly rather than a person that is a simpleton or lacks intelligence.
The ‘fools’ that Pope was referring to were his contemporary literary critics. A number of other notable writers have used this phrase in the time since it was coined.
For example, Edmund Burke used the phrase in his 1790 Reflections on the Revolution in France:
What ought to be the heads, the hearts, the dispositions that are qualified or that dare, not only to make laws under a fixed constitution, but at one heat to strike out a totally new constitution for a great kingdom, and in every part of it, from the monarch on the throne to the vestry of a parish? But — ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread.’”
It also appears in The Woodlanders, an 1887 novel by Thomas Hardy:
"He felt shy of entering Grace's presence as her reconstituted lover - before definite information as to her future state was forthcoming; it seemed too nearly like the act of those who rush in where angels fear to tread."
"And later on at a propitious opportunity he purposed (Bloom did), without anyway prying into his private affairs on the 'fools step in where angels' principle, advising him to sever his connection with a certain budding practitioner."
Additionally, the first novel published by E. M. Forster was named Where Angels Fear to Tread. Published in 1905, the novel takes its name from the Alexander Pope quote.
How would you use ‘fools rush in’ in a sentence?
Generally, a person would say ‘fools rush in’ or the full proverb ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread’ when they are commenting on a person they believe is getting involved in a situation that they are unequipped to deal with or do not understand.
Let’s look at some examples:
There are so many fascinating idioms, proverbs, and phrases in English that you can learn to expand and enrich your vocabulary. If you’re ready to keep learning, be sure to check out our idioms blog!