Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch

Have you ever planned a weekend getaway with your friends, only to be disappointed when things didn’t pan out? As the saying goes, don’t count your chickens before they hatch, as unexpected things can happen. Now, let’s see what we can uncover by cracking open this phrase.

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“Don’t count your chickens before they hatch” is an old saying that means you shouldn’t get your hopes up or make plans based only on assumptions because that can lead to disappointment. The proverb warns against becoming overly optimistic about an anticipated event, specifically if the outcome is not guaranteed. Here are two important points to consider for the meaning of this phrase:

What It Means
1. The proverb “don’t count your chickens before they hatch” advises against prematurely raising expectations based on uncertain outcomes, as the circumstances may not turn out as expected.
2. It encourages people to wait until they have all the facts before making plans or getting too excited about a situation.

Example: John anticipated winning an upcoming race and has already purchased a TV with the prize money he has yet to win. Therefore, it could be said that he is counting his chickens before they hatch, as he is depending on an assumption that may not come true.

See the examples section for more clarification and usage of this idiom and other related expressions.

A chicken hatching from an egg.
This egg is the chicken’s home and it refuses to leave.


1. Don’t get ahead of yourself
2. You shouldn’t assume anything
3. Don’t count on it
4. I wouldn’t hold my breath
5. Don’t get your hopes up
6. Setting yourself up for disappointment
7. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

Have you ever been in a situation where others were confident about something, but you were skeptical? You might tell them not to count their chickens before they hatch in order to temper their expectations. However, the synonyms listed above can also convey the same thought.

Origin of “Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch”

This idiom goes back to at least the 16th century, which means it is at least 448 years old. It’s earliest known appearance in print, from what I have seen, is in a book called New Sonnets and Pretty Pamphlets by Thomas Howell, 1570:

“Counte not thy Chickens that vnhatched be,

Waye wordes as winde, till thou finde certaintee.”

Why Shouldn’t You Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch?

Consider this: If you had a chicken and it laid three eggs, does that mean you will soon have three more chickens? If you said yes, then as the saying goes, don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Why not?

Because it’s not guaranteed that all three chickens will hatch successfully and survive. There are various complications that can occur during or leading up to the hatching process, which may result in the chicks not making it. Therefore, it’s possible that out of those three eggs, only two may survive, or even none at all if things go really poorly.

Tip: For additional phrases like this, we have you covered! Check out these phrases starting with “D” for a list of sayings that people regularly use in conversation.

Examples For “Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch”

To get a better grasp of this saying, let’s look at a few examples that show how it can be used in a sentence:


1. I know you’re expecting rain soon, but don’t count your chickens before they hatch. The weather has been mostly dry all month.
2. My family is confident about catching several fish at the lake. However, they shouldn’t count their chickens before they hatch because the fish may not be biting today.
3. Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched by assuming you’ll get a perfect score on the test.

In the following sentences, we will use a similar phrase in place of this old adage:


1. My brother thinks his favorite team will take home the trophy. However, he might be setting himself up for disappointment since many of the other teams look capable this season.
2. While everyone assumes the trip will go smoothly, I’m not holding my breath. The reason being, our car is in poor condition, which may cause problems during the journey.
3. Sarah was planning a snowball fight with her friends, but it never snowed. This was a lesson to not get ahead of yourself.

What can we learn from these illustrations? First, take note in these examples how a certain outcome is anticipated. Second, notice how the proverb and its synonyms are used to express a cautious attitude towards those anticipated outcomes. Essentially, this proverbial phrase encourages one to avoid making plans for uncertain things.

Now that you’ve learned about this idiom, consider exploring some other common sayings below.

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