What Does Keep Your Ear to the Ground Mean?

Keep Your Ear to the Ground Meaning

Definition: To stay well informed about something.

This expression carries the connotation of being well connected or staying close to a source in order to be very up to date about new developments.

Origin of Keep Your Ear to the Ground

This expression originated in the late-1800s. The idiom stems from the literal practice of placing one’s ear to the ground in order to hear far off hoof beats, footsteps, or other indicators of something or someone approaching.

It is possible for vibrations to carry through the ground at great distances. For this reason, it is oftentimes possible to hear something coming (with an ear against the ground) before one can see it.

This expression was common in the American West. It is likely because cowboys and other people living on the frontier could hear herds of bison, cattle, horses, or even trains approaching in this manner.

When used in a metaphorical sense, this expression communicates a similar idea. Someone who keeps a close ear to those who are knowledgeable about certain topics, or someone who spends time in situations that pertain to those topics, will likely know about upcoming changes before they occur.

Examples of Keep Your Ear to the Ground

keep an ear to the groundHere is an example that involves two college students discussing upcoming tests.

Robin: I wish each class syllabus would list the dates for all assessments.

Harry: Don’t worry. I should know at least a week ahead of time when each quiz and test will be for all our classes.

Robin: Why? Do the teachers always announce that information?

Harry: No, but I make sure to keep my ear to the ground, so I’m the first to find that stuff out.

Robin: How do you do that?

Harry: I’m a close friend with the teaching assistants for some of the classes. In other cases, I talk to students who took the class last year. The teachers are following the exact same material as last year, right down to the timing of each assignment and assessment.

ears to the ground meaningIn this dialogue, two coworkers are discussing upcoming changes in their workplace.

Mal: I heard we might have to start wearing uniforms. That’s not true, is it? I know you always have your ear to the ground.

Xiomara: I haven’t heard anything from the secretaries or any of my other sources. I’ll ask around and see what I find out.

More Examples

This excerpt is from an article about men’s fashion.

  • Sablan said that during his first day of business, an industrial designer in his late 20s, who is keeping his ear to the ground as to what’s cool, stopped by. That same day, an artist in his 60s with a Bluetooth earpiece and a Samsung Galaxy Note dropped by to check out the store. –OC Register

This excerpt is from an article about a baseball team.

  • “But we’re certainly keeping our ear to the ground and our eyes open, and we’re out scouting players. We’ll be ready. We don’t feel an urgency to do anything right now, but we’re certainly going to pounce on an opportunity if it presents itself.” –Houston Chronicle


The phrase keep one’s ear to the ground means to work to be aware of upcoming changes or events.