put the cart before the horse

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put the cart before the horse (third-person singular simple present puts the cart before the horse, present participle putting the cart before the horse, simple past and past participle put the cart before the horse)

  1. (idiomatic) To put things in the wrong order or with the wrong priorities; to put something inconsequential as more important than something more essential.
    • 1898, Julian Hawthorne, chapter 1, in The History of the United States:
      The hour had struck; and with it, as always, appeared the man. So it has ever been in the history of the world; though we, with characteristic vanity, uniformly put the cart before the horse, and declare that it is the man that brings the hour.
    • 1957 December 2, “Corruption of the Mind”, in Time:
      To attempt to remove the armaments before removing these substantive conflicts of interest is to put the cart before the horse.
    • 2005 July 27, David D. Kirkpatrick, “Timing of Hearings and Vote Stalls Confirmation Talks”, in New York Times, retrieved 6 Nov. 2008:
      Mr. Schumer said that the idea of agreeing to a date for a vote before the committee had held hearings was "to put the cart before horse."


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