Fold one’s tent

The expression fold one’s tent is an idiom. We will examine the meaning of the idiom fold one’s tent, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Fold one’s tent means to withdraw, to leave, to quit, to give up. The idea is to slowly depart from a place or situation without fanfare. The expression fold one’s tent is derived from a quote from the poem, The Day is Done, published by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1844: “…Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs, And quietly steal away.” In the past, the latter half of the quote, “…like the Arabs…” may have been cited, but today the expression may be considered xenophobic. Related phrases are folds one’s tent, folded one’s tent, folding one’s tent. The idiom fold one’s tent also invokes the image of a carnival or circus folding their tents after their last evening performance and leaving before dawn.

Examples

“We don’t see that enough from people, and young people when there’s a little bit of a challenge you can fold your tent or you can step up and get better, and that’s exactly what he’s done.” (The Idaho Statesman)

Knowing this ahead of time, fold your tent like the Arabs and wait for another day to make your pitch. (The National Post)

“You can either see what you can do to improve or you can fold your tent and don’t see these kids doing that.” (The Saratoga Sun)