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Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

White wolf sleeping on a rock in a cave
Dog sleeping on a cobblestone path. let sleeping dogs lie

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie Definition

Let sleeping dogs lie. To leave things as they are rather than start an argument, especially rekindling an old issue that has been settled.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie Examples

After John’s wife fought with him for 20 minutes for forgetting the milk, things finally quieted down. Later he was going to offer to go to the store again.. but decided to just let sleeping dogs lie.

Anna noticed Jim coming back from his break late again. She was going to bring it up to him, But after he made a scene last time she decided to let sleeping dogs lie and let it slide this time.


“Let lying dogs sleep is something I always say in reference to the Smiths.”


The Smiths, known for 80’s hits like ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’ and ‘This Charming Man’ is an English rock band fronted by singer Morrissey. In 2003, four of the bands album appeared on Rolling Stones list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. Morrissey has strong political opinions that he would often express in interviews including criticisms of the British monarchy including the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whose administration had it’s fair share of scandal and controversy. The Smiths singer is also an outspoken vegetarian and strong endorser of animal rights.

Rock band The Smiths as dolls. let sleeping dogs lie
The Smiths: Andy Rourke, Morrissey, Mike Joyce and Johnny Mar

Disney O.G

“I’ve never YouTubed myself, and I’m actually scared to do it. I think I may just let sleeping dogs lie on this one.”

Taylor Handley[2]

Child actor Taylor Handley was prominent in the early 2000’s, He played the bully Rory Buck in Jack Frost and starred in the Disney original movie Phantom of the Megaplex.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie Origin

Definitive Origin

“It is nought good a slepyng hound to wake.”

Troilus and Criseyde, Geoffrey Chauncer

Troilus and Criseyde a poem finished 1374 by the well known English poet Geoffrey Chauncer. While not as well known as Chauncer’s famous The Canterbury Tales, many experts consider Troilus and Criseyde to be his finest work. Troilus and Criseyde is a tragic story of the title characters romance set during the Siege of Troy.

A black and white portrait of Geoffrey Chauncer. let sleeping dogs lie
A portrait of Geoffrey Chauncer

In the 16th century it made it’s way into John Heywoods A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue. A collection of English proverbs.

“It is euill wakyng of the slepyng dog.”

A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, John Heywood, 1546

Home of the Walpole

Sir Robert Walpole the first Prime Minister of Great Britain loved this turn of phrase and repeated it often. He thought by many in England to be the creator. Although at the time of writing i have not found any evidence of a direct quotation. Also the longest to remain in office, Walpole served for a whopping 20 uninterrupted years!

In his first year as Prime Minister under King George I, Walpole exposed and crushed a Jacobite plot. Jacobites were members of a political movement lasting generations to return James II and IV (one person) and his descendants to the throne of Great Britain which he claimed by divine right.

Walpole made a point to and succeeded in keeping peace during his term which allowed Great Britain to prosper in many ways. The English nursery rhyme “Who Killed Cock Robin?” may allude to Robert who carried the nickname which expanded to his regime often dubbed the ‘Robinocracy’.

A portrait of sir Robert Walpole. let sleeping dogs lie
Sir Robert Walpole

Literal Origin

“Let sleeping dogs lie, said the daft man, when he saw the dead hound before him.”

The Second Tale of Allan Lorburne, The London Magazine, 1822

A Mariners Tale published in 1822 contains the earliest modern phrasing of the idiom let sleeping dogs lie in The London Magazine. The London Magazine is the oldest periodical in England stretching back to 1732 and is still around today! Well known writers for the magazine include poet T.S. Elliot and cowboy actor William Boyd.