'Hold Your Horses': Definition, Meaning, Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on October 7, 2023

Have you ever heard someone say, 'Hold your horses'? It's a pretty common expression, but what does it mean? In this article, you'll learn the meaning behind this popular idiom, its possible origins, and how to use it in a sentence.

If you just want the short version, here it is:

  • To hold your horses is to slow down and consider your options carefully instead of rushing into something.

Where Does 'Hold Your Horses' Come From?

The idiom "hold your horses" is a figurative way of telling someone to be patient or to wait. When someone says, "Hold your horses," they are advising another person not to rush into a decision or action, to calm down, or to be patient before proceeding.

It's a way of encouraging restraint and suggesting that impulsive or hasty behavior may not be wise. For instance, imagine your colleague wants a raise and has decided to ask the boss that day. You might say to them:

Whoa, hold your horses Sally. If you really want this raise, you have to come up with a plan, you can just waltz in there without preparing what you're going to say. You should make a list of your attributes and why you deserve a raise. Here, I'll help you.

When using this idiom, you can swap around the possessive pronouns depending on who you are talking to.

Here are your options:

  • Hold my horses
  • Hold her horses
  • Hold his horses
  • Hold your horses
  • Hold their horses
  • Hold our horses

When you use the pronoun 'your,' the sentence is in order, meaning it's in the imperative mood. If you're using any of the other pronouns, it's no longer an imperative sentence because you're not giving someone an order. Instead, you're telling someone about another person holding their horses.

Because this idiom contains a verb ('hold'), it's possible to see it in different forms, although rare. Some possibilities include:

Where Does 'Hold Your Horses' Come From?

The expression "hold your horses" is an idiomatic phrase that means to be patient or to wait. Its origin can be traced back to the use of horses as a primary mode of transportation in the past. The phrase likely originated in the United States in the 19th century when horses were commonly used for various purposes, including pulling carriages and wagons.

When people were traveling or working with horse-drawn vehicles, it was essential to ensure that the horses were adequately controlled and not released prematurely. "Hold your horses" was likely a literal instruction given to those handling the reins or managing them to prevent them from moving too quickly or impulsively.

Over time, the phrase evolved into a metaphorical expression, used in a broader sense to advise someone to exercise patience, wait, or refrain from rushing into a situation. It became a standard part of the English language and continues to be used today in various contexts.

That's really all we know about the origins of this idiom. Some sources attribute the first use of this idiom in print to the Picayune Newspaper in 1844, where it used the slang term 'hosses':

Oh, hold your hosses, Squire. There's no use gettin' riled, no how.

Others say it was in the Chatelaine magazine in 1939:

Hold your horses, dear.

But it's difficult to verify either of these claims.

Examples in Sentences

Now that we've covered the meaning of this idiom and its origins, here are some example sentences that use it.

I know you're excited about the concert, but hold your horses—we still have an hour before it starts.

Before you start spending money on new furniture, hold your horses and consider your budget.

Hold your horses! We need to hear everyone's opinions before making a decision.

The boss told us to hold our horses on the new project until we receive further instructions.

Hold your horses, Sarah! Let's finish one task before jumping into the next.

Before you resign from your job, hold your horses and think about the consequences.

The kids were eager to open their presents, but we told them to hold their horses until everyone was ready.

Before you buy that expensive gadget, hold your horses and check if there are any better deals.

Hold your horses, Tom! We need to gather all the information before presenting our proposal.

The coach told the players to hold their horses and stay focused on the game plan.

Other Ways to Say 'Hold Your Horses'

There are plenty of other ways to tell someone to calm down and wait before jumping into action. They're great to use if you're looking for alternative phrases.

Here are some of them:

  • Cool your jets
  • Hold on
  • Keep your hair on
  • Stand by
  • Stay put
  • Sit tight

Concluding Thoughts

That concludes this article about this famous saying. To summarize, when you tell someone to hold their horses, you advise them to wait and think something through instead of rushing into anything.

Are you ready to learn more English phrases and expand your vocabulary? Check out our idioms blog for idioms, expressions, sayings, and more!      

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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