The idiom “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch” is a cautionary phrase that warns against making plans or assumptions about a future event that might not come to pass. It emphasizes the unpredictability of outcomes and the importance of waiting for certain results before making decisions based on them.
This idiom is often used to advise patience and to avoid overconfidence or making premature judgments.
For instance, if someone is already spending money they expect to receive from a deal that hasn’t been finalized, they might be warned not to “count their chickens before they hatch.”
Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch Idiom Origins
As you can see in the above graph, this phrase is old as time, although it appears to have seen a resurgence since the 1980s.
The idiom itself has its roots in ancient proverbs and tales. The essence of the saying can be traced back to Aesop’s Fables, a collection of stories attributed to Aesop, a slave and storyteller from ancient Greece.
Here’s a brief overview of its origin:
- Aesop’s Fable: One of Aesop’s tales tells the story of a milkmaid who is on her way to market with a pail of milk. As she walks, she daydreams about selling the milk and using the money to buy chickens. She imagines the chickens laying eggs, which she could then sell to buy more chickens. Lost in her thoughts about the wealth and prosperity her chickens would bring, she accidentally spills the milk. The moral of the story is not to dream of profits before they are secured.
- Lesson in Humility: The idiom serves as a reminder that making assumptions about future events can lead to disappointment. It’s a call to remain grounded and not get carried away by unfounded expectations.
Today, when someone warns you not to “count your chickens before they hatch,” they’re advising you to wait for events to unfold before making plans based on them.
The phrase remains a popular cautionary reminder in many cultures and languages, emphasizing the importance of patience and realism.
10 Examples in a Sentence
- “He’s already planning a celebration, but I told him not to count his chickens before they hatch.”
- “She’s expecting a promotion soon, but I hope she doesn’t count her chickens before they hatch.”
- “They’re already making plans based on that investment, but they shouldn’t count their chickens before they hatch.”
- “I know you’re excited about the potential deal, but don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”
- “It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves, but we mustn’t count our chickens before they hatch.”
- “He’s confident about the game, but he shouldn’t count his chickens before they hatch.”
- “She’s already shopping for a new car, but I think she’s counting her chickens before they hatch.”
- “The team is optimistic, but they shouldn’t count their chickens before they hatch.”
- “I know the project looks promising, but let’s not count our chickens before they hatch.”
- “He’s expecting a big inheritance, but I warned him not to count his chickens before they hatch.”
1. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Definition: Avoid concentrating all your efforts or resources in one area as it could lead to trouble.
In a Sentence: “Diversify your investments; don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
2. Look before you leap
Definition: Think carefully about what you are about to do before you do it.
In a Sentence: “Before you decide to quit your job, look before you leap.”
3. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
Definition: It’s better to have a certain advantage than the possibility of a greater one.
In a Sentence: “I know the new job offers more money, but remember, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”
4. Don’t bite off more than you can chew
Definition: Don’t take on more responsibilities than you can handle.
In a Sentence: “Taking on another project might be biting off more than you can chew.”
5. Don’t put the cart before the horse
Definition: Don’t do things in the wrong order.
In a Sentence: “You’re decorating the office before signing the lease? Don’t put the cart before the horse.”
6. Cross that bridge when you come to it
Definition: Deal with a problem if and when it becomes necessary.
In a Sentence: “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, for now, let’s focus on the task at hand.”
7. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst
Definition: Be optimistic but also be prepared for all possibilities.
In a Sentence: “We’ve done all we can for the event, now we hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”
8. Every cloud has a silver lining
Definition: Every bad situation has some good aspect to it.
In a Sentence: “I know you’re upset about not getting the job, but every cloud has a silver lining.”
9. It’s not over till the fat lady sings
Definition: Don’t assume the outcome of some activity until it has been fully completed.
In a Sentence: “The game looks tough, but it’s not over till the fat lady sings.”
10. Rome wasn’t built in a day
Definition: Important work takes time.
In a Sentence: “Building a successful business takes time; Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
11. Better safe than sorry
Definition: It’s better to be cautious than to take risks.
In a Sentence: “Always wear a helmet when cycling; better safe than sorry.”
12. The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry
Definition: Even very careful plans or projects can go wrong.
In a Sentence: “We had everything planned for the picnic, but then it rained. Well, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
13. Don’t cry over spilled milk
Definition: Don’t waste your time worrying about things that have already happened and can’t be changed.
In a Sentence: “I know you regret that decision, but don’t cry over spilled milk.”
14. A stitch in time saves nine
Definition: Taking care of problems before they become worse will save time and effort in the end.
In a Sentence: “Fix that small leak now, a stitch in time saves nine.”
15. Measure twice, cut once
Definition: It’s important to double-check one’s methods before committing to executing them.
In a Sentence: “Before you finalize the design, measure twice, cut once.”