What Does Don’t Have a Cow Over It Mean?

Don’t Have a Cow Meaning

Definition: To have a cow is to have a strong, often negative, reaction to something. To tell someone not to have a cow, then, is to tell someone to relax or calm down.

This is an American phrase commonly used to subdue an unnecessarily strong reaction (at least in the eyes of the person using it). Usually the person having the reaction is expressing worry, concern, anxiety, or anger over a difficult or unexpected situation.

Origin of Don’t Have A Cow Over It

meaning of don’t have a cowGiving birth to a cow is a stressful ordeal, and this phrase is a reference to that experience. It is similar to the British phrase “to have kittens,” which was used as far back as medieval times to express the pain of childbirth and the assurance by witches that the pain was not the growing child but kittens, which could be destroyed by a magical potion.

Since the 1950’s, the idiom has been used in America in its current form.

Example of Don’t Have A Cow Over It

dont have a cow manIn the modern day, dont have a cow over it is used primarily as a slang way to tell someone to “chill out” or not to react so strongly.

It is most commonly seen in its shorter form, dont have a cow, and came to particular popularity when “Don’t have a cow, man!” became Bart Simpson’s trademark phrase on the television show “The Simpsons.”

  • Lisa started to freak out when Bart took the bottle of rum from the cabinet, poured one cup out, then filled the bottle back up with water. Bart socked Lisa in the arm and said, “Don’t have a cow!”

More Examples

  • “So if you’re exasperated about what to get that hard-to-buy-for sibling or cousin, don’t have a cow, man. Buy one. And give it away.” –The Blade

This idiom is most often used verbally, although its popularity attained through the Simpsons has led to a number of games, clothing, and other merchandise.


Telling someone, “Don’t have a cow over it!” is cajoling someone to calm down about a situation you don’t think warrants such a strong reaction.