keep the wolf from the door

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keep the wolf from the door

  1. (idiomatic) To ward off poverty or hunger.
    They didn't earn much, but it was enough to keep the wolf from the door.
  2. (idiomatic) (Can we verify(+) this sense?) To delay sexual ejaculation.
    • 1997, Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge, “Alan Attraction”, in I'm Alan Partridge, written by Peter Baynham, Steve Coogan and Armando Iannucci:
      Do you mind if I talk? It helps me keep the wolf from the door, so to speak. Jill, what do you think of the pedestrianization of Norwich city centre?
    • 2002 July 30, the mekon, “Wanking”, in, Usenet[1]:
      I find it useful to look at a picture of Mo Mowlam at the change hands point, it helps to "keep the wolf from the door" so to speak.
    • 2014 December 1, “Carnal Calendar”, in Men's Health[2]:
      If you haven’t got the self-control to keep the wolf from the door yourself, ask your partner to help out. She’ll enjoy being the one in the driving seat for a change.


The original saying may have been keep the wolf from the gate and dates from at least 1470.[1] By the 1500's the saying had become keep the wolf from the door. The meaning remained unchanged from its current usage.[2]

There is a suggestion that the phrase may have originated or been derived from French or German phrases. The German Wolfsmagen directly translated is wolfs stomach and means a keen appetite and the French manger comme un loup means eat like a wolf.[3]



  1. ^ John Hardyng, Chronicle, XCVIII, xii, 1470 (republished in 1812)
  2. ^ Vol 3 of familiar letters, James Howell, publisher Humphrey Moseley, St Pauls Churchyard, 1655, page 8, copy of letter from 1647
  3. ^ Notes and Queries, 2nd series vol 4, no 84, 8 August 1857, page 115, Bell and Dalby, Fleet Street