Hold Your Horses – Idiom, Origin & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold your horses, I’ll explain the meaning of…well…hold your horses in just a second. The phrase speaks for itself, in my opinion, but I wanted to take a moment to explain its origins so you better understand how to properly use this idiom in your conversations and writing.

Meaning of the Phrase Hold Your Horses

Hold Your Horses Idiom Origin Meaning

The idiom “hold your horses” is one we use in English when we want to tell someone to be patient, wait, or just slow down. It’s often used when someone is acting crazy or super hyper or just going too fast for your liking, and you want them to show a little restraint.

Origin or Etymology of Hold Your Horses

To understand the origin of the idiomatic phrase “hold your horses,” we have to trot all the way back to the beginning of the 19th century when horse-drawn carriages were the main mode of getting around. This was before the invention of cars.

During these times, people controlled the horses that led the carriage by holding the reins, and when they wanted them to stop or slow down, they’d hold the reins tightly and pull back. Hence the phrase, “Hold your horses.”

It was used in a literal context for decades until the dawn of motor vehicles came about. The phrase eventually morphed into an informal idiom that we use when we want someone or something to slow down.

Hold Your Horses or Hold On to Your Horses?

Hold Your Horses vs Hold On to Your Horses Ngram
Hold your horses and hold on to your horses usage trend.

The correct form you should use is “hold your horses.” I know that “hold on to your horses” sounds like it would be correct, too, and even understood by most people. But if you wish to be technically correct, it’s “hold your horses.”

Hold Your Horses Synonyms

There are plenty of other ways to say “hold your horses,” but here are a few of the most common ones off the top of my head.

  • Slow down
  • Be patient
  • Wait a minute
  • Hold on
  • Take a breather
  • Hang on
  • Whoa, whoa, whoa
  • Hold up
  • Take it easy

How to Use Hold Your Horses: Examples in a Sentence

Hold Your Horses Idiom Origin Meaning 1
  • Hold your horses! We need to double-check the directions before we go any further down this gravel road, or we might get lost.
  • You haven’t even seen the menu yet; hold your horses before you decide what to order, or you might not like what you get.
  • I know you’re excited about the book project, but hold your horses, and let’s discuss the plot details first so we can work out any potential holes.
  • Hold your horses, everyone. We’ll get the tour started as soon as the last person arrives.
  • James, before you jump to conclusions, hold your horses and listen to her whole story.

Giddy Up!

See? Easy! “Hold your horses” is a common idiom we use in most variations of English, and it carries the same meaning throughout. Although it came from a literal context, it’s definitely an idiom today, and you’d use it to tell someone to simply slow down, take a moment, and breathe.