What does the idiom "Let sleeping dogs lie" mean?

You are wondering about the meaning of the phrase Let sleeping dogs lie, maybe you heard it in a TV show, movie or theater play. Although this idiom is not used very often, it enriches your capacity of expression and strengthens communication. In which case is the expression Let sleeping dogs lie used and what is its meaning?

Meaning of "Let sleeping dogs lie"


The idiom 'let sleeping dogs lie' is an expression that is used to describe the notion of not disturbing a current situation or problem that has been dormant. It means to not bring up or bring attention to a problem that has been forgotten or is not currently being discussed, as it may create more issues or difficulties. This phrase can be used to caution another person against stirring up uncomfortable or volatile issues.


The exact origin of the phrase ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ is unknown, however, the most commonly accepted explanation of its origin dates back to 16th century England. During this time, dogs were used for a variety of purposes, including guarding their owner’s homes. Furthermore, if a dog was asleep, it was likely not to bother anyone and it would be wise to not disturb it. Therefore, ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ is thought to have derived from this idea of not disturbing a peaceful situation or one that is not currently being discussed.


The expression 'let sleeping dogs lie' is used most often as a warning or advice to someone to not bring up or disturb a potentially volatile situation. It is used to warn or caution another person or persons against stirring up uncomfortable issues or conflicts that may be in danger of being reopened. It is also used to describe someone’s behaviour of not addressing a particular issue or problem.

Example Sentences

  • It would be best to let sleeping dogs lie and not try to stir it up again.
  • I think it’s best if we just let sleeping dogs lie and move on.
  • We should just let sleeping dogs lie and not get involved in the politics.

The meanings of the words in the "Let sleeping dogs lie" idiom

Beyond the Literal: Figurative Language in Idioms

Idioms often use figurative language to convey a message that is not meant to be taken literally. For instance, the idiom "bite the bullet" means to endure a painful or difficult situation without complaint, while "hold your horses" means to be patient and wait. Other idioms, like "kick the bucket" or "pop your clogs," use euphemisms to talk about death.


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