Jump the Gun Meaning
Definition: Doing something inappropriately early.
This expression is typically used as a verb phrase, but can also be used as a gerund. Many people use it in the context of saying they don’t want to start too early but still think starting early might be necessary. Others use it to apologize for starting too early.
Origin of Jump the Gun
The literal meaning of jumping the gun is to start running a race before the starting signal has sounded. In most foot races, the starting signal is often a gunshot, so jumping the gun is to start running before the gunshot has sounded.
This act could result in disqualification or having to start over because it is against the rules. This phrase first became popular in the first half of the 1900s.
Examples of Jump the Gun
In the below example, a doctor is talking to her patient with a serious illness and uses the expression in order to say that it may be too early to mention something, but she is going to mention it anyway.
Doctor: I don’t want to jump the gun, but these results look very interesting.
Patient: What is it?
Doctor: It’s too early to know for sure, but it’s possible that you’re on the first steps toward recovery.
Patient: Really? That’s fantastic news!
Doctor: But don’t get your hopes up! Your results might go back down. We’ll check again at your next appointment to see if there’s been steady improvement.
The next example involves a professor of English as a second language and his student.
Professor: What can I help you with today?
Student: I have a question about using the past perfect progressive tense in the passive voice.
Professor: Whoa! Don’t jump the gun! We’ll cover that next year. We are just starting the perfect tense now. The past perfect progressive is much trickier, and the passive voice makes it even more advanced.
Student: I know. But I just really want to understand it now.
Professor: I’m worried if you try to understand it now it will just confuse you more.
The excerpt below shows the idiom being used in the context of nuclear bombs, and it describes how one person could have started a nuclear war if he hadn’t waited to make sure he had correct information.
- On Sept. 26, 1983, glitchy computers at Soviet defense headquarters set off false alarms that the United States had launched five missiles toward the country. Instead of jumping the gun, the young Petrov (Sergey Shnyryov) waited for radar confirmation. He was right. If it weren’t for his prudence, half our nation would have been eviscerated by the Soviet nuclear arsenal. –LA Times
In this example, the expression is being used to say that someone initially thought they did something too early, but in the end realized that they had good timing.
- “At the time, it seemed kind of premature and kind of jumping the gun,” Barron said. “I guess in hindsight, it’s going to work out brilliantly.” –Orange County Register
Jumping the gun is an expression that means to do something prematurely, and has a negative connotation.