keep one's powder dry

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From the maxim "Trust in God and keep your powder dry", attributed to Oliver Cromwell; in the days of muskets, soldiers needed to keep their bags of gunpowder dry so they could load their guns at short notice.


keep one's powder dry (third-person singular simple present keeps one's powder dry, present participle keeping one's powder dry, simple past and past participle kept one's powder dry)

  1. To hold back on action until a future time; to save one's resources in case of emergency.
    • 1904, John Morley, Hansard: now happening, which, beyond almost any set of circumstances which have arisen in our recent history, impose the necessity on Great Britain, at all events, of keeping her powder dry, and of keeping her resources in steadfast charge.
    • 2014, Noah Feldman, "Alito's Day in Court", BloombergView:
      He’d for the most part refrained from any dramatic concurrences or dissents -- as though keeping his powder dry for Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the biggest religious-liberty decision in years.