Katie Bar the Door - Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you expecting trouble to come knocking at your door? If so, you could tell your family or friends to prepare for the coming issue by using the phrase "Katie bar the door."

This post unpacks everything you need to know about the origin and meaning of this idiom.

Katie Bar the Door Meaning

"Katie bar the door" is a fairly modern expression. You can use it when you're warning someone to expect trouble and prepare for the possibility of it arriving on their doorstep. The phrase typically means that something bad is about to happen, so brace yourself.

The trouble could be anything from a landlord coming to collect the overdue rent to a mob rioting through the city, making its way to your retail store. The phrase is more common in the United States, but it has plenty of use in European society.

Katie Bar the Door Example Usage

"Katie bar the door" the rioters are almost on our doorstep."

"We heard about the problems happening in Portland; I told my wife, 'Katie bar the door,' we have to get ready for the prospect of violence tonight."

We live by the ethos of "Katie bar the door," we're ready for anything.

The town's citizens rely on the strategy of "Katie bar the door" when civil unrest starts to spread.

"You heard the man, the police can't do anything, and the mob is heading this way, "Katie bar the door."

Katie Bar the Door Origin

"Katie bar the door" is an idiom originating from the early 1800s. The idiom's origin is hard for us to trace, but it seems to evolve in American media and society, with use almost exclusively in American culture. However, the actual origin of the phrase may have Scottish or Irish roots.

Some language experts believe that the phrase originated in Ireland, where the local people would lock themselves into the local bar overnight to drink out of the eyes of the law during curfew.

Others claim that the strongest evidence for the phrase's origin comes from Catherine Douglas, the lady-in-waiting to King James I of Scotland.

King James attempted to save Catherine from being murdered. The king's chamberlain removed the

bar from the king's quarters in an attempt to provide killers access to the room later that night.

As Catherine heard the killers approaching that night, she attempted to bar the door with her arm, resulting in the killers breaking her arm before entering the room and killing the king. After this night, Catherine earned the moniker "Catherine Barlass" or the "girl that barred the door."

Phrases Similar to Katie Bar the Door

  • Batton down the hatches.
  • Close the windows and lock the doors.
  • Winter is coming.
  • Hope for the best; prepare for the worst.

Phrases Opposite to Katie Bar the Door

  • No worries.
  • No stress.
  • Don't worry, be happy.
  • No reason to prepare.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Katie bar the door.
  • Katie bar the doors.
  • Katy bar the door.

Ways People May Say Katie Bar the Door Incorrectly

"Katie bar the door" is not suitable for use in professional settings. People may also use it in circumstances where the other person may not understand what they are saying. Most young people won't understand the meaning behind this saying, or people outside of the UK or Europe.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Katie Bar the Door

You can use "Katie bar the door" in social settings when you're offering someone advice or instruction to prepare for an adverse outcome. The severity could vary, and the phrase could have dire warning tones or just a simple request behind it.

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