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27 Nov. When should I use the English phrase “to hedge your bets?”

This English expression is fairly commonly used but is rather informal in register. If you want to learn when to use it correctly and why it came in to use then keep reading!


This expression is used in order to denote the act of avoiding making a firm decision or commitment. It suggests that a decision has been made with the goal of leaving a means of retreat open in case things do not work out as expected.


The expression first appeared in print in the year 1672. This was in a play called The Rehearsal by George Villiers and reads “now, Criticks, do your worst, that here are met; For, like a Rook, I have hedg’d in my Bet.”

The use of the verb “to hedge” relates to the verb “hedge” which is a sort of fence constructed from a row of bushes. To literally “hedge a piece of land” means to secure it with a hedge but not leave it completely blocked off as with a wall for example.


An example of the expression in use can be found in a quote from the British novelist, John Burdett. It reads “it is also quite appalling to realise how catatonic the imagination can become when we hedge our bets, opt for the safer direction at every fork in the path.”

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