Where does the phrase dogs of war come from? Here’s the Answer

Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of War Meaning

Definition: Cause chaos and release dogs trained to attack during warfare; create chaos and violence in other situations.

This expression is easier to understand when broken down into its separate components.

Cry havoc means for a military commander to give the order to cause chaos by allowing the soldiers to pillage and otherwise destroy an area.

Let slip means to unleash. In modern variations of this phrase let slip is also expressed as release, unleash, let loose, etc.

The dogs of war can have a literal meaning, which would be dogs trained to fight in war. In the modern sense, the dogs of war can simply mean soldiers, weaponry, missiles, etc.

phrases, sayings, proverbs and idioms at

The military order Havoc! was a signal given to the English military forces in the Middle Ages to direct the soldiery (in Shakespeares parlance the dogs of war) to pillage and chaos.

The let slip is an allusion to the slip collars that were used to restrain dogs and were easily let slip to allow the dogs to run and hunt.

“Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of War” Examples

You would use this idiomatic term when trying to warn someone against doing something that will result in something dramatic and most likely unwanted. For example you might say something along the lines of ‘If I were you, I wouldn’t tell Barney that you kissed his girlfriend, cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.’

Conversation examples:

If you would like to incorporate the term ‘cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war’ into your day to day conversation, but are unsure of how to use it, here are some examples to help you better understand how it would fit in.

Conversation 1:

  • Person 1: “I am not entirely sure about Peter’s idea to ski down that mountain, he isn’t trained after all.”
  • Person 2: “The results are bound to be a disaster.”
  • Person 1:Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”
  • Conversation 2:

  • Person 1: “I have decided to tell my husband that I had an affair.”
  • Person 2: “Why? That happened years ago and you regret it, it has no bearing on your life now.”
  • Person 1: “I want to be honest, no matter what the consequence.”
  • Person 2: “You will regret doing that, cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”
  • “Cry Havoc, Let slip the dogs of war!” Julius Cesar 1953 HD Scene

    Have you ever heard someone use the term ‘cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war’ and wondered what it means? We are going to look at why we use this saying and how to use it in a conversation, as well as where the term came from in the first place.