The phrase jump the gun means to do something prematurely or to start something before you were supposed to.
The Origin Of ‘Jump The Gun’
Where does the phrase “jump the gun” come from? It’s believed that this expression originates from track and field racing. At the beginning of these races, it is common for a starting pistol (aka a gun) to be fired. The sound of the shot signals the runners to, well, run. It basically means “GO!”
However, sometimes while the runners are waiting for the pistol to fire, one (or more) of them will start before the trigger has even been pulled. Hence, that runner “jumped the gun,” as the saying goes. In other words, he started the race earlier than he should have. Eventually, this situation turned into an idiom that is now used for anything that is done prematurely.
So how long has this saying existed? It’s at least 190 years old because it dates back as early as the year 1830. In that year, the idiom appears in print under an advice column in the Jacksonville Journal Courier newspaper. To give some context for the following quote, people sometimes wrote in to a woman named Abby for counsel and so this was part of her response to one of them:
“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.“
Here are examples of this phrase in a sentence:
- This new car has a sleek design and I want to buy it, but I should be careful not to jump the gun on something with such a hefty price tag. I’ll think about it some more.
- Leo received a gift, but he opened it prematurely; he was supposed to wait for everyone else.
- Ava put the cake in the oven too soon, she needed to wait for the temperature to rise.