Keep on a short leash

The phrase keep on a short leash is an idiom that has been around for hundreds of years. We will examine the meaning of the idiomatic phrase keep on a short leash, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To keep on a short leash means to tightly control someone or something, to restrict someone’s freedom, to curtail someone’s independence. The idiom keep on a short leash is also sometimes expressed as keep on a tight leash, but the former is much more common. A leash is a rope or leather strap attached to an animal, usually a dog, in order to control the movement of that animal. The exact origin of the idiom keep on a short leash is unclear, but it probably dates to the 1700s. Related phrases are keeps on a short leash, kept on a short leash, keeping on a short leash. The word leash is derived from the Latin word laxus, which means loose.


Curiously, it’s not just lawmakers whom voters would keep on a short leash, given the chance. (The Sacramento Bee)

Meanwhile, sparks fly between Eddie and Emma, whom he must keep on a short leash and out of trouble. (Variety)

The app-based ride-hailing company is being kept on a short leash by Transport for London (TfL) after only being granted a two-month licence, believed to be shortest ever issued by the transport body. (The Daily Mail)

A four-man breakaway including serial escapee Stephane Rossetto of Cofidis was kept on a short leash, with their advantage never quite reaching three minutes, a gap which began to tumble as Toulouse came into view. (The Independent)