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(be) careful what you wish for(, (because) you just might get it)
A warning that something that one desires might prove to problematic or undesirable were it to happen or come true. A: "I just wish they would give me a promotion with more responsibilities in work." B: "Be careful what you wish for. You might end up regretting how much more stressful your job becomes." A: "I don't know what to do with her—she's totally infatuated with Kevin and doesn't see what a jerk he can be." B: "Well, if they ever date, she'll figure it out. You know what they say—be careful what you wish for, you just might get it." A: "It's all so unfair! I wish I didn't even have a family!" B: "Hey—be careful what you wish for! I bet you'd regret saying that if anything bad ever happened to us or your brother!"
To act cautiously. Usually issued as a warning. Be careful when you go out in the city at night. Be careful with that box—don't bang around my glassware! Be careful! Stay with the tour guide!
be careful not to (do something)
Proceed cautiously, in an attempt to avoid potential problems or pitfalls. This phrase is often said as a warning or instruction. I was careful not to make any noise as I crept into the house after curfew. As you plan your talk, be careful not to bore the audience with scientific terms they won't understand. This plate is very hot—be careful not to burn yourself.
be careful what you wish for(, it might (just) come true)
cliché When we desire for some thing or situation to drastically change, the reality of the outcome might end up being worse than how things were before. A: "It's all so unfair! I wish I didn't even have a family!" B: "Hey—be careful what you wish for! I bet you'd regret saying that if anything bad ever happened to us or your brother!" A: "I want so badly to be a famous superstar singer!" B: "I've heard that they tend to have the most stressful, joyless lives in the world. So be careful what you wish for, it might come true."
careful not to (do something)
A warning or instruction that one proceed cautiously, in an attempt to avoid potential problems or pitfalls. I was careful not to make any noise as I crept into the house after curfew. As you plan your talk, be careful not to bore the audience with scientific terms they won't understand. This plate is very hot—be careful not to burn yourself.
if you can't be good, be careful
If you can't stop yourself from behaving improperly, try to limit the degree of risk or danger involved. If you can't be good, be careful, OK? Please try not to get into too much trouble.
Being scrutinized, examined, or monitored very carefully. Often modified by words such as "careful" or "close" between "under" and "scrutiny." The government kept the company under close scrutiny on suspicion of tax evasion and money laundering. You'll be under scrutiny during this probationary period of your employment.
See also: scrutiny
you can't be too careful
One must exercise the utmost caution and prudence (in the face of a very dangerous, risky, or problematic thing or situation). I'm sure everything is in order, but I'd like to have my lawyer read over the contract one more time—you can't be too careful. I think you should wear one of those holsters that keeps your passport and some extra cash hidden under your clothes. You can't be too careful when you're traveling abroad alone, you know.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
1. an instruction to take care in a particular situation. Bill: I'm going to the beach tomorrow. Sally: Be careful. Use lots of sunscreen! Jane: Well, we're off to the Amazon. Mary: Heavens! Be careful!
2. a way of saying good-bye while cautioning someone to take care. John: See you around, Fred. Fred: Be careful. Alice: Well, I'm off. John: Bye, Alice, be careful.
careful not to do something
using care to avoid some difficulty or difficulties. Please be careful not to discuss politics with Mr. Brown. Please be careful not to leave the house unlocked.
careful (with something)
treating or handling something with caution. Please be careful with the vase. It's old and valuable. That's too big a load. Be careful!
If you can't be good, be careful.
Prov. If you are going to do immoral things, make sure they are not dangerous.; If you are going to do something immoral, make sure to keep it secret. (Sometimes used as a flippant way of saying good-bye.) Be a good girl on your vacation trip. Or if you can't be good, be careful. Ernest likes to close his letters with, "If you can't be good, be careful."
*under (close) scrutiny
Fig. being watched or examined closely. (*Typically: be ~; have someone or something ~; keep someone or something ~.) The suspect was kept under scrutiny throughout the investigation.
See also: scrutiny
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
you can’t be too ˈcarefulused to warn somebody that they should be careful to avoid danger or problems: Don’t stay out in the sun for too long — you can’t be too careful.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017