batten down the hatches

batten down the hatches

Meaning | Definition

  • to get ready for trouble
  • to foresee issues and be prepared for the same

Example Sentences

  1. The army is wise to batten down the hatches near the border when our neighbouring country seems to be so hostile.


The origin of this phrase comes from the medieval times when travelling by ship was commonplace in order to go to a new territory. The English used this way of travel to form colonies around the world. The word ‘hatch’ literally refers to the opening in the deck space of the ship. It may or may not have a wooden grating which would allow the lower decks to be well ventilated. When the captain suspected bad weather, he would get the men to cover the grating or the open deck with tarpaulin and wooden strips which were known as battens. The sailors would refer to this activity as “battening down”. There are several textual references of this phrase with other spellings for the word “batten” as “battern” and “baton”. The former refers to stage lighting and the latter are sticks. Regardless of that, the meaning of the phrase remains as explained.

The literary origin of the phrase seems to be from 1769, in “An Universal Dictionary of the Marine” by William Falconer. It is since then considered to be among the nautical phrases.


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