Starting too soon; something that occurs earlier than it should have.
Example: I wasn’t supposed to tell the others about our secret project until next week, but I jumped the gun and revealed it early. (In other words, he revealed it prematurely.)
Example #2: My dad was gonna teach me how to change the oil in my car. I’ve never done it before, so the help was appreciated. He was running a little late and I was getting impatient, so I was thinking of trying to change the oil myself. But I also didn’t want to jump the gun and mess things up. (In other words, he didn’t want to start before he was supposed to.)
The Origin Of ‘Jump The Gun’
It is believed that this phrase comes from track and field racing. How so? It’s common for these races to begin with a starting pistol firing a single shot into the air. The sound of the shot signals the runners to begin. It basically means “GO!”
However, sometimes the runners will start before the shot goes off. Instead of reacting to the sound of it, they try to anticipate when it fires. Or maybe there’s another reason. Whatever the case, the point is that they start the race prematurely, they take off before the starter even has a chance to fire his pistol. Thus, they are are “jumping the gun,” as the saying goes.
So while this phrase may have began as a term used in track and field races for runners who started too early, it’s now one that’s used for other things that are done sooner than they should be.
The expression goes at least as far back as the year 1830, when the newspaper Jacksonville Journal Courier uses it in an advice column where people would write in to a woman named Abby for counsel:
“When you describe his condition as ‘dying,’ you create the impression that you are rushing him to the cemetery. He could live quite a while, so don’t jump the gun.“
To give some context for the quote above: This was part of Abby’s response to someone who said his father-in-law was “dying of liver cancer.” The writer’s in-laws were upset at his use of the word “dying,” and so he wondered if they were being too sensitive, or if he was in the wrong.
- I’m thinking about buying a brand new car. It’s white and it has a really sleek design. However, the only downside is that it’s expensive. My friend told me that I might be jumping the gun and I should think about it some more.
Note: The origins for most phrases and popular idioms cannot be said with a certainty. What’s provided are theories that may be plausible to how a phrase originated, but not necessarily so.
In addition, quotes that contain a particular phrase may be taken from old newspapers, poems, or books that were written a long time ago. This doesn’t mean that the phrase originates from said newspapers, poems, or books. Really, if an expression is being used in something like a newspaper, it’s probably already a well known.