Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
be on the wagon
To maintain one's sobriety; to abstain from alcohol. Jim's on the wagon again, so he doesn't want to go to the bar with us tonight.
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.
slang A large police van—or any police vehicle—used to transport criminals or suspects to jail. Sometimes considered offensive due to possibly having originated in the US with the use of a slang term ("paddy") for an Irishman, due to either the prevalence of Irish police officers or frequent arrests of Irish immigrants. However, the origin is debated. Nearly two dozen looters were thrown into paddy wagons by police forces trying to quell the riots. After Jeff got drunk and started assaulting a bouncer, he ended his night in the back of a paddy wagon.
hitch (one's) wagon to (someone or something)
To attempt to benefit from something or someone else's success or potential by closely associating with it or them. Be careful about hitching your wagon to the senator—some say his seat is in jeopardy. Joe got lucky by hitching his wagon to that startup before it was bought.
fall off the wagon
1. To return to drinking alcohol after a period of abstinence. (Usually said of recovering alcoholics.) There have been a few times that I've nearly fallen off the wagon, but thinking of my responsibility to my daughter helps keep me sober.
2. By extension, to return to any discontinued behavior, usually one that is detrimental in some way. I gave up smoking for nearly a year, but I fell off the wagon at Jeff's bachelor party.
off the wagon
1. Having returned to drinking alcohol or using recreational drugs after abstaining for a period of time. There have been a few times that I've nearly fallen off the wagon, but thinking of my responsibility to my daughter helps keep me sober. I'm worried about John; I think he may be off the wagon.
2. By extension, partaking in some activity after a period of abstinence. He gave up video games while he was studying for his final exams, but now that it's summer break he's off the wagon again. I was really good about my diet, but I fell off the wagon and went for some fast food last night.
on the wagon
Maintaining one's sobriety; abstaining from alcohol or drugs. I'm much healthier now that I'm on the wagon, but I find it hard to socialize with my friends. Thinking about my daughter's future helps keep me on the wagon.
fix someone's wagon
Fig. to punish someone; to get even with someone; to plot against someone. If you ever do that again, I'll fix your wagon! Tommy! You clean up your room this instant, or I'll fix your wagon! He reported me to the boss, but I fixed his wagon. I knocked his lunch on the floor.
Hitch your wagon to a star.
Prov. Always aspire to do great things.; Do not set pessimistic goals. (From Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay, "Civilization.") The speaker who delivered the high school commencement address challenged the graduating students to hitch their wagons to a star. Bob: What do you want to be when you grow up? Child: I used to want to be a great actor, but my dad told me hardly anybody gets to be an actor, so now I have to pick something else. Bob: Nonsense. If you want to be an actor, then do your best to be an actor. Hitch your wagon to a star!
*off the wagon
1. Fig. drinking liquor after a period of abstinence. (*Typically: be ~; fall ~; get ~.) Poor John fell off the wagon again. Drunk as a skunk. He was off the wagon for a year the last time before he sobered up.
2. Fig. back on drugs after a period of abstinence. (*Typically: be ~; fall ~; get ~.) Wilbur is off the wagon and shooting up again. He can't be off the wagon, because he has never stopped using, even for a day.
on the wagon
Fig. not drinking alcohol. No, I don't care for a cocktail. I'm on the wagon. Bob's old drinking buddies complained that he was no fun when he went on the wagon.
fix someone's wagon
Get even with someone, get revenge on someone, spoil someone's chance of success. For example, He may think he can win the election, but these ads will fix his wagon, or After what he did to her, her family's out to fix his wagon. This term uses fix in the sense of "punish someone" or "put someone in an awkward position," a usage dating from about 1800. The wagon was added in the 1900s, presumably making the phrase refer to putting sand in a wagon axle or similar sabotage.
hitch one's wagon to a star
Aim high, as in Bill's hitching his wagon to a star-he plans to be a partner by age thirty. This metaphoric expression was invented by essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1870.
on the wagon
Abstaining from drinking alcoholic beverages, as in Don't offer her wine; she's on the wagon. This expression is a shortening of on the water wagon, referring to the horse-drawn water car once used to spray dirt roads to keep down the dust. Its present meaning dates from about 1900. The antonym off the wagon, used for a resumption of drinking, dates from the same period. B.J. Taylor used it in Extra Dry (1906): "It is better to have been on and off the wagon than never to have been on at all."
hitch your wagon to someone/something
If someone hitches their wagon to a successful person or thing, they try to use that person or thing to make themselves more successful. Jones isn't the only footballer to have hitched his wagon to brand promotion. They made a big mistake hitching their wagon to The Beatles. Note: You can also say that you hitch your wagon to a star or to someone's star, with the same meaning. Giammetti had the good fortune to hitch his wagon to a brilliant star. A powerful network had by now hitched their wagons to Johnson's star. Note: This is a quotation from the essay `Civilization' (1870) by the American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson: `Now that is the wisdom of a man, in every instance of his labor, to hitch his wagon to a star, and see his chore done by the gods themselves.'
on the wagon
If someone is on the wagon, they have stopped drinking alcohol. I'm on the wagon for a while. Cleaning out my system. Note: You can say that someone falls off the wagon when they start to drink alcohol again after a period of not drinking it. Sadly, he fell off the wagon after 12 dry years. Note: Originally the expression was `on the water wagon' or `water cart'. Water carts were horse-drawn carts used for transporting water or for sprinkling the streets. If someone was `on the wagon', they were drinking water and not alcohol.
circle the wagonsmainly 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.
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.
fix someone's wagonbring about someone's downfall; spoil someone's chances of success. US
1951 Truman Capote The Grass Harp She said her brother would fix my wagon, which he did…I've still got a scar where he hit me.
hitch your wagon to a starmake use of powers higher than your own.
This phrase was used by the American philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1870 in the context of idealistic aspiration; modern usage generally has the more cynical implication of attaching yourself to someone successful or famous in order to profit from the association.
1998 Spectator [ Francis Bacon ] was among the first to hitch his wagon to the star of the repulsive George Villiers … James I's next favourite.
a whole team and the dog under the wagona person of superior ability; an outstandingly gifted or able person. US
on the wagonteetotal. informal
This expression originated in early 20th-century American use in the form on the water wagon , the implication being that a person on the water wagon would eschew alcohol in favour of water.
1989 Michael Norman These Good Men I'll just have a club soda with a twist of lime…I'm on the wagon.
hitch your ˌwagon to a ˈstar,
hitch your wagon to somebody/somethingtry to succeed by forming a relationship with somebody/something that is already successful: She quit the group and hitched her wagon to the dance band ‘Beats’. ♢ We must be careful. We don’t want to hitch our wagon to the wrong star.
Hitch means to tie or attach something to something else.
be/go on the ˈwagon(informal) no longer drink/decide to stop drinking alcohol, either for a short period of time or permanently, especially if you drink a lot: ‘Would you like a gin and tonic?’ ‘No thanks. I’m on the wagon.’This idiom refers to the water wagon, which in America sprayed roads with water to prevent clouds of dust. If somebody starts drinking alcohol again, they are said to fall off the wagon.
n. a fast car; a car customized for racing. Your draggin’-wagon can’t be driven in town, can it?
fall off the wagon
1. in. to resume drinking after having stopped. (The wagon is presumed to be the water wagon.) It looks to me like he wanted nothing more than to fall off the wagon.
2. in. to resume any previously stopped behavior including smoking, drug use, overeating, or any other disavowed behavior. He’s back to watching TV again. Fell off the wagon I guess.
1. and honey cart n. any vehicle used for or designed for carrying excrement: a farm manure wagon; a tank truck used to pump out septic tanks; a tank truck used to pump out airplane toilets; a portable latrine truck used in movie making. I drove a honey cart in Hollywood for a year. How’s that for glamour?
2. n. a beer truck. What time does the honey wagon bring in new supplies?
n. an ambulance. The meat wagon showed up just as they were pulling what was left of Marty out of what was left of her car.
n. drug addiction. (Drugs.) Some of these treatment centers won’t get you off the monkey wagon unless you have insurance.
off the wagon
1. mod. drinking liquor after a period of abstinence. Poor John fell off the wagon again. Drunk as a skunk.
2. mod. back on drugs after a period of abstinence. Harry the Horse is off the wagon and shooting up again.
on the wagon
mod. not now drinking alcoholic liquor. How long has John been on the wagon this time?
n. a police van used to take suspected criminals to the police station. The cop put the woman in handcuffs and then called the paddy wagon.
n. the police wagon. I called the wagon. It’ll come and get these two thugs in about fifteen minutes.
circle the wagons
To take a defensive position; become defensive.
fix (someone's) wagon
To get revenge on another.
off the wagonSlang
No longer abstaining from alcoholic beverages.
on the wagonSlang
Abstaining from alcoholic beverages.
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
hitch your wagon to a star
Set high goals. The phrase come from an 1862 Ralph Waldo Emerson essay “American Civilization”: “Now that is the wisdom of a man, in every instance of his labor, to hitch his wagon to a star, and see his chore done by the gods themselves. That is the way we are strong, by borrowing the might of the elements. The forces of steam, gravity, galvanism, light, magnets, wind, fire, serve us day by day, and cost us nothing.” It used to be heard among other bit of avuncular or graduation speech advice. Then advice for the future became more specific, like “plastics” in the movie The Graduate. Nowadays, in this economy, your guess is as good as mine.