Browse by letter

Do not halloo till you are out of the wood

The old verb ‘to halloo’ meant ‘to give a load exclamation’. Travellers lost in a forest were relieved and delighted when they found their way through it and emerged into the open country; but to mistake a small clearing for the open country and shout ‘Hurray! We’re out of the wood!’ was rejoicing too soon, for many more trees might lie beyond the clearing.

We use the proverb as a warning against being too optimistic, against celebrating escape from danger before the danger is really over.

‘Here comes a helicopter!’ cried one of the shipwrecked sailors on the raft. ‘We’re saved!’

But the light was bad and the pilot did not see them. As the sound of the helicopter died away another sailor said sadly:

‘We’re not through the wood yet.’

 

See also: