Did you place a wager on the Giants to win this weekend? Maybe you should ‘hedge your bets’ and take action on another game to mitigate the risk. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.
The expression ‘hedge your bets’ means to mitigate the risk in a wager, deal, or life situation. Typically, it refers to financial trading or gambling, but it can also refer to other behavior. Hedging your bets means counterbalancing risk or avoiding committing to a single course of action.
“I don’t know about this, John. I think we should hedge our bets and buy some Apple stock to hedge the risk involved with trading meme stocks like AMC and GameStop. What do you think?”
“Why expose yourself to that kind of risk in the market? Don’t you know how to hedge your bets in trading? You’re going to end up losing everything with this risky strategy.”
“I think you need to hedge your bet with Maria. You never know how she will react when you ask her to prom. Make sure you have someone else waiting in the wings as a backup if she says no.”
“You can hedge your bets and apply for two jobs at once. One of them is bound to accept you. You can always choose the better one if both of them offer you the position.”
“I need to hedge my bets here. I bought her the perfume she likes, but I need to get her something else in case she already has enough of it at home.”
“I appreciate the offer, but I always hedge my bets. I don’t like putting all my eggs in one basket. It’s too risky for me.”
The expression ‘hedge your bets’ originates from the early iteration of the saying in Shakespeare’s play, ‘Merry Wives of Windsor,’ performed in 1600, where it reads as follows.
“I myself sometimes, leaving the fear of God on the left hand and hiding mine honor in my necessity, am fain to shuffle, to hedge, and to lurch.”
The phrase began to refer to a financial transaction in the early 1600s. The first use of hedging in an economic sense was to ‘hedge one’s debts.’ The first example of this appeared in John Donne’s Letters to Sir Henry Goodyere, published in 1620, where it reads as follows.
“You think that you have Hedged in that Debt by a greater, by your Letter in Verse.”
‘Hedging one’s bets’ appeared in its modern context later that century.
George Villiers, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, coined the expression in his play ‘The Rehearsal,’ performed in 1672, where it reads as follows.
“Now, Criticks, do your worst, that here are met; For, like a Rook, I have hedg’d in my Bet.”
Phrases Similar to Hedge Your Bets
- Back it up.
- On the side.
- Waiting in the wings.
Phrases Opposite to Hedge Your Bets
- Go naked.
- All your eggs in one basket.
What is the Correct Saying?
- Hedge your bets.
Ways People May Say Hedge Your Bets Incorrectly
The phrase ‘hedge your bets’ has nothing to do with bets or hedges. The ‘bet’ in the expression is an action, and the ‘hedge’ is a further action that removes risk from the initial effort. Using it to describe betting or gardening is incorrect.
Acceptable Ways to Phrase Hedge Your Bets
You can use the saying ‘hedge your bets’ to describe actions where you mitigate risk from something by completing another activity or task. The phrase suits social and professional settings. For instance, you could say you hedged your bets at work after calling a client as a backup to the client coming into the store that afternoon to make a purchase.
Or you could say you hedged your bets with your birthday gift to your partner. You arrange a surprise vacation as a backup if they don’t like the present. The phrase suits all instances where you mitigate risk from a primary activity by organizing a secondary backup. The saying serves text-based communications and verbal exchanges.