don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes

Cultural Dictionary

Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes definition


Don't react to a situation too early. This saying comes from an order allegedly given by American officer William Prescott at the Battle of Bunker Hill in the American Revolutionary War.

American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes definition


A famous command attributed to William Prescott, an American officer, at the Battle of Bunker Hill in the Revolutionary War. Prescott may have said “color” rather than “whites.”

Note: Prescott's command has become a proverb, meaning “Don't act before you have some chance of success.”
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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