circle the wagons

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circle the wagons

1. To become defensive. (Conestoga wagons under attack were traditionally brought into a circular defensive position.) I'm not questioning your decision, so don't circle the wagons—I'm just looking for some more information.
2. To confer only with people within a trusted group. Callie's new group of friends really circles the wagons, so she hardly talks to me anymore. Circle the wagons, people. We can't have word of this getting out to the press.
See also: circle, wagon
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

circle the wagons

mainly AMERICAN
If a group of people who are in difficulty or danger circle the wagons, they unite in order to protect themselves and fight whoever is attacking them. She accused Collier and other senior officials of trying to circle the wagons in their recent defense of the bureau's performance. Note: You can also say that people pull or get their wagons in a circle. This is designed to get the wagons in a circle and defend the smoking franchise. Note: These expressions are usually used to show disapproval. Note: According to some Wild West stories, when wagon trains were attacked by Native Americans, the settlers drove the wagons into a circle in order to defend themselves better.
See also: circle, wagon
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

circle the wagons

(of a group) unite in defence of a common interest. North American informal
In South Africa the Afrikaans word laager , meaning ‘a defensive circle of ox wagons’, is used in similar metaphorical contexts.
See also: circle, wagon
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

circle the wagons

To take a defensive position; become defensive.
See also: circle, wagon
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

circle the wagons!

Prepare your defenses. A line in Western movies, when the Indians were about to attack a wagon train, was the wagon master's shout to “circle the wagons!” The Conestogas and prairie schooners then formed a circle to make a barricade behind which men fired their rifles at their attackers who galloped around the perimeter while the womenfolk reloaded the weapons or tended to the injured. (Another “oater” convention had the cavalry appear over the horizon and charge to the rescue). You didn't have to wear a ten-gallon hat and carry a Winchester 73 to use the phrase. When trouble appeared, such as an advertising agency about to lose an important account, a “Mad Man” would summon his department with a “Let's get the wagons in a circle and save this sinking ship” (mixed metaphors were not unknown in the advertising business).
See also: circle
Endangered Phrases by Steven D. Price Copyright © 2011 by Steven D. Price
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