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I am looking for a saying or common expression to say that it is not advisable to anticipate or celebrate something before you know the actual outcome. I am thinking about political elections or football match results, but also more everyday expectations about a possible positive outcome.

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  • Lots of good answers already. The OP's idea of breaking into a celebration too early has its own charm and none of the known idioms comes even close in the impact that 'celebrate too early' has, though.
    – Kris
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 12:53
  • @Kris - I put "celebrate" in inverted commas and in the body I say also "anticipate". The idea is to give for granted something in anticipation but not necessarily make official celebration about it.
    – user66974
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 13:06
  • I know. "Publicly acknowledge (a significant or happy day or event) with a social gathering or enjoyable activity" -- the party is incidental, not necessary :)
    – Kris
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 13:19
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    Dutch has a great one for this: "De huid verkopen voor de beer geschoten is" or: "Selling the skin before the bear has been shot". (There's also a wrong letter-switched version that effectively means the same thing: "De buit verkopen voor de heer geschoten is" = "Selling the loot before the gentleman has been shot".)
    – mcv
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 13:23
  • @mcv: Nice spoonerism.
    – keshlam
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 0:00

12 Answers 12

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Don't sell the skin before you've caught the bear.

Never sell the bear's skin before one has killed the beast.

The die hasn't been cast (yet).

The final/last word hasn't been said/spoken.

It hasn't all been said yet.

It ain't (all) over (and done) yet.

One must not be too hasty in one's rejoicing.

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  • The Chinese say 'Don't sell your ox till you've found a horse'.
    – WS2
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 10:02
  • Is this bear variant idiomatic in English ? We have that one just litterally in french language too. Commented May 26, 2014 at 10:48
  • @RomainVALERI Polish also has a closely related idiom: to portion/divide the skin while it's still on the bear (dzielić skórę na niedźwiedziu).
    – Alicja Z
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 11:20
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    "The man that once did sell the lion's skin / While the beast lived, was killed with hunting him." --Shakespeare, Henry V. But the quotation or proverb is not so familiar that I would venture the first line alone and expect someone else to get the point. Commented May 26, 2014 at 12:50
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    It ain't over till the fat lady sings.
    – user39425
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 18:08
76

I think this is a useful saying that may fit what you are looking for

Don't count your chickens (before they're hatched)

something that you say in order to warn someone to wait until a good thing they are expecting has really happened before they make any plans about it: You might be able to get a loan from the bank, but don't count your chickens.

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  • 2
    Absolutely right . Commented May 26, 2014 at 9:33
  • This is a common saying in Latin America as well. Very useful — although this is the first time I've heard it in English.
    – AeroCross
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 10:38
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    Old joke: There was a plot to kill the king, and a noble was discovered to be in on it. They brought in the executioner, but the king offered to spare his life if he'd give up his conspirators. Then noble proudly fixed his jaw, so the king nodded to the executioner. Seeing this, the noble shouted, "I'll tell! I'll tell!" But it was too late and the executioner's axe cut off both the words and the head of the traitor. And the moral of the story is: Don't hatchet your counts before they chicken.
    – Aaron Hall
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 20:12
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"It isn't over till the fat lady sings".

Also, "It isn't over till it's over". (Politicians and journalists in Britain and America alike trot out this platitude all the time when elections are on.)

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  • 34
    Whether you like the "grammar" or not, the actual expression is It ain't over till the fat lady sings Commented May 26, 2014 at 11:30
  • I've never heard the "ain't" version before. Maybe it's because we don't use "ain't" over here...
    – Xynariz
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 15:58
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"Don't speak too soon" - could also work here.

speak too soon

Assume something prematurely, as in I guess I spoke too soon about moving to Boston; I didn't get the job after all .

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13

And then there's the Yogi-ism, It ain't over till it's over.

Yogi-isms are the sayings of Yogi Berra,a famous baseball player and manager. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yogi_Berra

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  • I think you mean Lenny Kravitz! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_Ain't_Over_'til_It's_Over
    – MVCylon
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 18:13
  • Well, sure. Him too.
    – GMB
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 2:04
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    "I really didn't say everything I said" - Yogi Berra.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 4:11
  • Right @ Andrew Grimm. He said that too--or did he?
    – GMB
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 16:34
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In addition to the other good answers, there's also:

There's many a slip twixt the cup and the lip

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4

Don't jinx it.

According to superstition, a jinx is someone who always brings bad luck; "jinxing it" implies that talking about recent good luck can ruin the good luck and can bring about bad luck before the outcome is fixed.

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To keep a lid on it is used in Australia and the UK, to mean to not get carried away by the euphoria or early or temporary success.

Note this phrase can also mean simply to keep quiet about something, or to keep something a secret.

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    Hm. I'd say that "keep a lid on it" only means to keep quiet about something. Though I suppose things might be different Down Under.
    – Marthaª
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 20:26
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    US: this phrase means to be discreet around these parts.
    – Preston
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 9:43
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It's more common to say:

Don't celebrate too soon

than to use early.

I think most of these other possible answers are either a bit too general, or off target in terms of celebration. I prefer:

Keep the champagne on ice

It implies there will be celebrating in the near and foreseeable future, but not immediately, so we will continue to keep the bubbly on ice.

However, it could also be used ironically or derisively, to burst another's bubble if they seem to be a bit too optimistic.

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  • That saying means 'prepare to celebrate' rather than 'don't celebrate too soon'
    – JamesRyan
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 11:30
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These are a couple of more general expressions, not necessarily only used for celebration.

Don't cross that bridge until you get there.

And, of course,

Don't get ahead of yourself.

Which is the most general case for situations you describe.

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Nothing is carved in stone.

Meaning we haven't written the future, we write the past and the future can be changed.

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It's easy to get carried away when you've put all your eggs in one basket. It's best to not get your hopes up until you know it's a done deal.