Cooler Heads Prevail – Idiom, Origin & Meaning

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Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod is a highly qualified secondary English Language Arts Instructor who brings a diverse educational background to her classroom. With degrees in science, English, and literacy, she has worked to create cross-curricular materials to bridge learning gaps and help students focus on effective writing and speech techniques. Currently working as a dual credit technical writing instructor at a Career and Technical Education Center, her curriculum development surrounds student focus on effective communication for future career choices.

Idiomatic phrases are an excellent way to help your audience make connections with your message. They provide details through figurative use and are integral to the English language.

Cooler heads prevail is a way to say that those who remain calm will get their way. It is a famous saying that has been around in one form or another for at least 500 years, if not longer. Let’s take a look at the origins and meaning behind this term in the article below.

What Does It Mean to Let Cooler Heads Prevail?

Cooler Heads Prevail Idiom Origin Meaning

To let cooler heads prevail means that a calm, reasonable demeanor exerts the dominant influence in a given situation. To use the idiom is to declare that a favorable solution will be or was achieved by patience and mild behaviors rather than aggression or anxiety.

For example:

  • Despite my initial reservations, I decided to wait and see if cooler heads would prevail. I’m glad I did because my problem resolved itself the next day.
  • The club advisor urged the students to let cooler heads prevail concerning the questionable tournament results.
  • It would be ideal if politicians let cooler heads prevail, but I doubt they would put aside their egos long enough to do so.
  • When cooler heads prevailed, the team was able to diffuse the tense situation during the meeting and reach a consensus on the best approach to tackle the project’s challenges.

When Cooler Heads Prevail Origins

Cooler Heads Will Prevail Ngram
Cooler heads will prevail usage trend.

Various forms of the phrase have been in use since at least the 1590s, as it appears in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream” when Theseus declares:

“Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend/More than cool reason ever comprehends.”

It gained popularity during the 1800s when the idiom became more recognizable as the one we use today. In 1810, a speech recorded in the “British and Foreign History for the Year 1809” stated:

“He was sorry to observe that the generous, open, candid, and manly feelings of the honorouble gentleman who brought forward the charges, had been led away, so as to be prevail’d on by the advice of cooler heads than his…”

The expression was regularly in print by the end of the 19th century, as seen in this example from John McMaster in his documentary “Benjamin Franklin as a Man of Letters” published in 1887:

“But cooler heads prevailed, and a committee, of which Franklin was one, met the malcontents on Tuesday morning, remonstrated with them, and received a written remonstrance in return.”

Let’s Review

Various forms of the idiomatic phrase cooler heads prevail have been used since at least the 16th century. It is likely even older than that, although documentation is scarce. It has been well used since the 19th century in a modern manner to mean that those who remain calm are likely to get their way.