Also found in: Thesaurus.
These adjectives describe abruptness or lack of deliberation. Impetuous suggests forceful impulsiveness or impatience: "[Martin Luther King] feared that an ill-prepared, impetuous demonstration would endanger ... the marchers" (Nick Kotz).
Hasty and headlong both stress hurried, often reckless action: "Hasty marriage seldom proveth well" (Shakespeare)."In his headlong flight down the circular staircase, ... [he] had pitched forward violently ... and probably broken his neck" (Mary Roberts Rinehart).
Precipitate suggests impulsiveness and lack of due reflection: "All my mistakes in life had flowed from that precipitate departure of mine" (Philip Roth).
early days Premature, overhasty; too early or soon; jumping the gun. In use since the 16th century, this British expression has a self-evident meaning but may sound awkward to American ears.
As regards the current year, it is early days to express any considered opinion, but trading conditions are bad. (Times, December 23, 1957)
from the hip Impulsively, impetuously, without preparation or thought; spontaneously, extempore. This expression is an abbreviated version of to shoot from the hip, literally to fire a handgun from the hip immediately upon drawing it from the holster and without taking formal aim.
… second thoughts about letting their man shoot from the hip quite so much as his nature prompted him to. (R. L. Maullin as quoted in Webster’s 6,000)
go off at half-cock To start prematurely; to leave unprepared; to act rashly, impetuously, or ill-advisedly; also, go off half-cocked. In this expression, half-cock refers to a position of a gun’s hammer which renders the weapon inoperable; thus, one is unprepared if the gun happens to go off at half-cock. Figuratively, the phrase implies acting on a whim with no preparatory measures.
Poor Doctor Jim! What disasters he brought down upon his country and his company by going off at half-cock. (Westminster Gazette, January, 1896)
Half-cocked is used adjectivally to mean ‘ill-prepared, ill-considered’ and by extension ‘foolish, silly, inane.’
head over heels See INTENSITY.
jump the gun To begin prematurely; to start early with the prospect of gaining an advantage. This expression’s origin lies in the false starts made by runners before the firing of the pistol that signals the race’s start. The phrase maintains common usage in the United States and Great Britain.
The Prime Minister has jumped the gun by announcing that it will take the form of government advances to building societies. (Economist, November, 1958)
on the spur of the moment See SPONTANEITY.
pell-mell In a recklessly hurried fashion; in a confused or disordered manner. This expression is derived from the medieval French sport pelle-melle, in which the object was to knock a ball through a hoop suspended at the end of an alley. Known as pall-mall in England, this sport involved much reckless, headlong rushing of the players into the alley, inspiring the coinage of the term pell-mell to describe this frenzied scurrying.
We were an absurd party of zealots, rushing pell-mell upon the floes with vastly more energy than discretion. (Elisha Kane, The U.S. Grinnell [First] Expedition in Search of Sir John Franklin, 1853)
take the ball before the bound See ALERTNESS.
trigger-happy Impetuous, reckless, rash, irresponsible; overanxious, over-eager; overly critical, quick to point out mistakes and faults in others. This term originally referred to an overeager gunman just itching to pull the trigger of his gun and cut somebody down. The term has since become generalized and is now applied to anyone inclined to hasty or ill-advised actions.