Hold your horses


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Hold your horses'?

Hold on; be patient.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Hold your horses'?

US origin – 19th century. In keeping with its American origin, it originally was written as ‘hold your hosses‘ and it appears in print that way many times from 1844 onwards. In Picayune (New Orleans) September 1844, we have:

“Oh, hold your hosses, Squire. There’s no use gettin’ riled, no how.”

It’s clear that hoss is the US slang term for horse, which was certainly known by 1844, as in David Humphreys’ The Yankey in England, 1815:

“The boys..see a ghost in the form of a white hoss; and an Indian in every black stump.”

It isn’t until much later, in Chatelaine, 1939, we get the more familiar phrase:

“Hold your horses, dear.”

In 1943 there’s a more descriptive use, in Hunt and Pringle’s Service Slang:

“Hold your horses, hold the job until further orders. (comes from the Artillery)”

See other phrases that were coined in the USA.

Trend of hold your horses in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.