keep the wolf from the door

keep the wolf from the door

Meaning | Synonyms

  • to have sufficient money to prevent starvation or hunger
  • to do something that lets one to escape death by small margin
  • to maintain itself at the lowest level in order to avoid hunger or cold, etcetera
  • defend against financial or starvation devastation
  • refers to successfully arrange food and other essential things for family and itself

Example Sentences

  1. Both the man and his wife must work long hours just to keep the wolf from the door.
  2. She can barely keep the wolf from the door with the help of such a small shop in town.
  3. My grandfather told me that he had worked hard even when he was not physically fit to keep the wolf from the door.
  4. During the recession most of the Americans were finding it difficult to keep the wolf from the door.
  5. That beautiful lady is the mother of 3 kids and earns money by illegitimate means to keep the wolf from the door.


There are various origin stories regarding where the phrase was first used. None of them can be substantiated but it is clear that the phrase has been in use since the 1500s. It can be equated to the fact that a wolf is often depicted as a ravenous beast. Thus, if you need to keep the wolf from the door you need to protect your family.

One theory is that if you are able to provide for your family there will be scraps left for the wolves to eat and this will keep them happy. As soon as the scraps dry up they will come to your door in search of food. The phrase was originally “keep the wolf from the gate” but has evolved into the phrase that we use today.

An example of the phrase was used by John Hardyng as early as 1543. It can be found in the Chronicle of John Hardyng.

“By whiche he maye the wolf werre frome the gate …”

Examples of the wolf being a destructive force dates to the Bible. Matthew 10:16,

“Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves …”

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