What does the idiom "keep in check" mean?

The expression keep in check is one of the idioms that often finds a place in our literature and enriches our language. However, its meaning is not fully understood, so it is sometimes used in the wrong situations. Please review the explanation carefully for the correct use of the keep in check idiom.

Meaning of "keep in check"


The idiom “keep in check” means to restrain, control, or limit something. It can be used to describe a person who is being held back from doing something, as well as something that is being kept under control.


The phrase “keep in check” has roots in Middle English and originally meant “to inspect and constrain.” During the 1200s, the phrase was commonly used to refer to a chess move: when a move is able to block the opponent’s next move, they were “in check” and the previous move “kept them in check.” This phrase later developed to refer to restraint that is exerted over something or someone.


The phrase “keep in check” can be used both literally and figuratively. It is often used in terms of physical restraint, to describe someone or something being held back from doing something. It can also be used figuratively to describe the act of self-control, where someone is able to keep their behavior in check or stay within acceptable limits.

Example Sentences

  • The government is trying to keep inflation in check by raising taxes.
  • I'm trying to keep my spending in check so I can save money.
  • My parents were always keeping me in check and making sure I didn't make any bad decisions.

The meanings of the words in the "keep in check" idiom

The Global Spread of English Idioms

As English has become a global language, its idioms have spread far beyond the borders of the UK and USA. For instance, the idiom "beat around the bush" has equivalents in many other languages, such as "tourner autour du pot" in French and "dar vueltas al asunto" in Spanish. Meanwhile, other idioms have been adapted for local contexts, such as the Russian idiom "?? ???? ???????" (ne svoya rubashka), which translates to "not one's own shirt," meaning to be in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar situation.


No comment has been written about keep in check yet, you can write the first comment and share your thoughts with our other visitors.
Leave a Reply