Did you hear someone say ‘cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war’ as they were walking into the office? Are they upset with someone? Should you be worried about their behavior?
This post unpacks everything you need to know about the meaning and origin of this expression.
The expression ‘cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war’ is an old military expression. However, it no longer has its original meaning relating to warfare on the battlefield. Today, ‘cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war’ is a motivating statement you can use to inspire yourself or others when taking on a challenging task.
“Ok, honey, I’ll help Sofie get dressed this morning. I know she’s a handful when you’re trying to get ready in the morning. Well, it’s time to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”
“We have everything we need to take down the other team. We have the skills, the manager, and the crowd behind us. It’s time to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war. Let’s go!”
“When your back is against the wall, and there’s no way out, it’s time to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war. Muster your courage and strength, and head out onto the battlefield.”
The saying ‘cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war’ originates from the play ‘Julius Caesar,’ written by William Shakespeare and first performed in 1601. The phrase appears in the play after the murder of Caesar, as Anthony regrets his actions and the uncertainty to follow. The line reads as follows.
“Blood and destruction shall be so in use
And dreadful objects so familiar
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quarter’d with the hands of war;
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds:
And Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war;
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.”
Phrases Similar to Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of War
- Hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.
Phrases Opposite to Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of War
- Give up.
What is the Correct Saying?
- Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.
Ways People May Say Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of War Incorrectly
The phrase has nothing to do with dogs. It’s a rallying cry used by going to battle. However, the modern use of the saying is suitable for preparing for any challenge you dislike or don’t enjoy. Using the phrase to describe dogs is incorrect.
Acceptable Ways to Phrase Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of War
You can use the expression ‘cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war’ when you’re steeling yourself for a challenge. The task is difficult, and you’re preparing to rise to the occasion and meet the challenge head-on. It’s no longer an exclusive term to the military and is a common phrase used in business.
You could use the phrase when telling your colleague at work that you’re preparing to meet with a pushy client. You could use it at home when dressing your young child in the morning, and you know she will put up resistance. ‘Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war’ can also act as a rallying cry, preparing friends or team members for confrontation or a test.