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Don’t count your chickens

  • Don’t count your chickens is the first part of an often-quoted proverb. A proverb is a short, common saying or phrase. These common sayings are language tools that particularly give advice or share a universal truth, or impart wisdom. Synonyms for proverb include adage, aphorism, sayings, and byword, which can also be someone or something that is the best example of a group. Often, a proverb is so familiar that a speaker will only quote half of it, relying on the listener to supply the ending of the written or spoken proverb himself. Speakers of English as a second language are sometimes confused by these pithy sayings as translations from English to other languages do not carry the impact that the English phrases carry. Some common proverbs are the wise sayings better late than never, early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, haste makes waste, blood is thicker than water, and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. One of the books of the Bible is the Book of Proverbs, which contains words and phrases that are still often quoted in the English language because they are wise. Many current proverbs are quotations taken from literature, particularly Shakespeare, as well as the Bible and other sacred writings. We will examine the meaning of the expression don’t count your chickens, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.


     

    Don’t count your chickens is the first part of the proverb don’t count your chickens before they hatch. The expression means that one should not assume victory until it actually occurs, that one should not count on income before it is safely in the bank, that one should not assume he will receive a gift until it is in his hands. The phrase don’t count your chickens and the proverb don’t count your chickens before they hatch is most probably derived from an Aesop fable, The Milkmaid and her Pail. In the story, a lowly milkmaid is carrying a pail of milk on her head, calculating about selling the milk to buy chickens. She goes on to daydream about raising the chickens in exponentially larger amounts until she is rich. Then she spills the milk, and all her dreams of posterity are dashed, because she was busy counting chickens before they hatched, rather than paying attention to the task at hand.

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    Examples

    They say to never count your chickens before they hatch, but everyone would like to see another match between Lee and Hoosac Valley in the playoffs. (The Berkshire Eagle)

    If that all points to the hosts being a threat from corners and set-pieces today, however, don’t count your chickens. (The Argus)

    US Steel Stocks: Don’t Count Your Chickens Yet! (The Market Realist)

    Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched, and certainly don’t count the most promising of leads as customers until the deposit is actually in the bank. (Forbes Magazine)


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