Keep Your Powder Dry - Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you waiting for the perfect entry into a trade? Maybe you're waiting for a crash or pullback in the market to buy Bitcoin? If so, you need to “keep your powder dry” and wait for the event before jumping into the market.

This post unpacks everything you need to know about this idiom's use, meaning, and origin.

Keep Your Powder Dry Idiom Meaning

If you say "keep your powder dry" to someone else, you're telling them to conserve their resources. The phrase has its roots in strategy, and it's telling the other person to hold back and wait for their opportunity after the chaos passes.

In the early use of the word, people would apply it to military tactics. However, in modern culture, it usually refers to the financial world and keeping capital available to harness opportunities that arise in the market.

The phrase can also mean remaining faithful through all circumstances while preparing for things to take a turn for the worse potentially.

Keep Your Powder Dry Example Usage

"The fourth quarter is almost here, and the market is starting to respond to the increase in volume. Keep your powder dry and wait for the right entry into the stock."

"Wait until he starts gassing in the fourth round. Keep your powder dry and stick with the double jab and wait for him to tire."

"You need a savings account with a decent amount of capital ready to invest. When you keep your powder dry, you're ready to pounce on the best-performing asset class in the market."

"Don't spend all your money now; keep your powder dry, so you have something available tomorrow."

"You're winning the debate, but keep your powder dry until the closing remarks and blow away the audience with your statement."

Keep Your Powder Dry Idiom Origin

The origin of the idiom "keep your powder dry" comes from Oliver Cromwell, the Scottish leader who invaded Ireland. Cromwell apparently uttered the words during his invasion, and many historians can track the saying back to Cromwell.

One of the first documented use cases of the expression came from 1834. The Dublin University Magazine featured an article by William Blacker titled "Oliver's Advice." The term grew popular in the United States and the UK during the 1800s and 1900s, and it still has plenty of use today.

The 1943 book by Margaret Mead, "And Keep Your Powder Dry; An Anthropologist Looks at America," uses the term, as does a 1945 film with the title, "Keep Your Powder Dry." Today, the phrase is more common in strategy discussion, referring to the conservation of resources.

Phrases Similar to Keep Your Powder Dry

  • Hang back a bit.
  • Take your foot off the gas.
  • Wait for the opportunity.

Phrases Opposite to Keep Your Powder Dry

  • Give it everything you've got.
  • All in.
  • Blow it all.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Keep your powder dry.
  • Keep the powder dry.
  • Keeping your powder dry.

Ways People May Say Keep Your Powder Dry Incorrectly

People may use "keep your powder dry" incorrectly to describe the act of keeping something dry. The "powder" in this idiom typically refers to anything but a physical object. The meaning of the phrase is to conserve resources or assets.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Keep Your Powder Dry

You can use "keep your powder dry" in social and professional settings. Anyone can use the phrase, from a sports coach to the President of the United States. Typically, the term has its best application in the financial world, but it's still in use in military combat and sports today.

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