To be watchful; alert. To pay careful attention to something.
Example: Brad ordered something expensive and it was scheduled to be delivered soon. However, he would not be home to sign for it because he had work. So Brad told his brother, “Keep your eyes peeled for a delivery coming today. It should be here soon.
In other words, he told his brother to be alert, watching for the delivery man.
Synonyms / Similar Phrases:
1. Be on your toes
2. Heads up
3. On the lookout
4. Pay attention
The Origin Of ‘Keep Your Eyes Peeled’
There are two versions of this phrase. One version uses the word “peeled,” while the other uses the word “skinned.” Both forms convey the same idea—figuratively removing the skin of one’s eyes in order to pay better attention.
So what is the origin of the phrase keep your eyes peeled? Both versions might derive from the practice of peeling/skinning certain foods before eating them. For example, a person usually peels a banana before consuming it. The purpose of the peeling is to “open” it up. This would then go on to become a metaphor. Just as someone removes the skin of a fruit of vegetable to “open” them up, so too someone who is “keeping their eyes peeled” is figuratively removing the skin of their eyelids to keep them open. While this may sound plausible for how the phrase originated, I am not certain if that’s the case.
Moving along, let’s talk about how old this phrase is. Both versions of the idiom appear in print as early as the 19th century. Let’s look at two examples. First, the version with the word “skinned” is seen in an old book from 1832:
“‘Keep your eyes skinned now,’ said the old trapper.”
The other form (the one that uses the word “peeled”) is written in the Kenosha Telegraph newspaper, 1852:
“Keep your eyes peeled for all their antics.”
- If you’re wandering around in the desert, the heat isn’t the only thing you have to be careful of. You also have to keep your eyes peeled for any dangerous creatures on the ground, like rattlesnakes or scorpions.
- I am on a new medication, so I am keeping my eyes skinned for any side effects.
- My dog is lost somewhere in my neighborhood, so I am on the lookout from him, searching everywhere I can.
Note: The exact origin of some, or even many common phrases and popular sayings cannot be said with certainty. Because of this, what will sometimes be provided in such cases are theories that talk about how a phrase originated. However, these are speculative.