Keep Your Eyes Peeled – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to tell someone to stay alert and aware? If so, you could use “keep your eyes peeled.” This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The meaning of the expression “eyes peeled” refers to telling someone to maintain a wakeful or watchful state of their surroundings. The person needs to keep their awareness up and pay careful attention to what is happening around them.

The saying often appears as “keep your eyes peeled.” It has several applications, from military operations to home protection or just shopping online. You can use it to tell people to maintain a state of heightened awareness of their surroundings. Or you can use it to tell people to be aware of virtual experiences, like navigating the internet.

Keeping your eyes peeled means that you won’t let your guard down, and you’ll catch every detail of what’s happening around you. It is a way of assuming responsibility and accountability in front of others to gain their trust.

Example Usage

"Listen, guys, I need you to keep your eyes peeled for this suspect. He's out on bail, and someone saw him around the murder scene last night."

"Km, when you're going to the store this afternoon, would you keep your eyes peeled for the new copy of Vogue? I heard that Beyonce's going to be on the cover."

"You need to keep your eyes peeled for Will Smith at the Oscars. You never know when he'll get on stage and slap somebody."

"Keep your eyes peeled for the enemy. We're on their turf now, and you never know what direction they could come from.

"Sarge told us to keep our eyes peeled, but I'm so tired I want to pass out. I need a coffee or something."

"Keep your eyes peeled for someone on Craigslist offering 30 Seconds from Mars tickets."

“Everyone needs to be on the alert. We have no idea what’s going on or what’s coming next. I need you all to keep your eyes peeled and reach out to me on your walkie if you see anything strange.”

“Keep your eyes peeled everyone. Deer love coming out at night and we’re sure to see some of them on the road.”


The expression “eyes peeled” originates from the early 19th century. The oldest rendition of the saying comes from “Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins,” written by Robert Frederickson in 1832, where it appears as follows.

“‘Keep your eyes skinned now,’ said the old trapper.”

The second iteration of the expression comes from the Kenosha Telegraph newspaper, published in 1852. This is the correct version and the one we use today.

“Keep your eyes peeled for all their antics.”

Phrases Similar to Eyes Peeled

  • Be on your toes.
  • Heads up.
  • On the lookout.
  • Pay attention.

Phrases Opposite to Eyes Peeled

  • Pay no mind.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Eyes peeled.

Ways People May Say Eyes Peeled Incorrectly

The phrase has nothing to do with peeling eyes or torture. It has nothing to do with the action of peeling.

It’s a way of saying the person needs to remain alert and aware of their surroundings. Using it to describe anything other than intense awareness is incorrect.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Eyes Peeled

You can use the expression “eyes peeled” when trying to tell someone to be alert and aware of their surroundings. The phrase suits social and professional use. At work, you could use it to tell the sales team to keep their “eyes peeled” for a fraudster seen operating in the area.

At home, you could use it to tell your family to keep their “eyes peeled” for any suspicious activity on the property while you’re away from home. You could also use it to tell your friend to keep their eyes peeled for a specific record you want when they visit a vinyl market that afternoon.

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