Batten Down the Hatches

Meaning of “Batten Down the Hatches”

The phrase “batten down the hatches” means to prepare oneself for the impending disaster or trouble to either face or make preparations to save oneself from it.

Origin of “Batten Down the Hatches”

The phrase “batten down the hatches” originated during the times of voyaging. However, its first use in print appeared in Smyth’s book, The Sailor’s Word Book, published in 1867. The following sentence has the phrase: “Battens of the hatches: Long narrow laths serving by the help of nailing to confine the edges of the tarpaulins and keep them close down to the sides of the hatchways in bad weather.”

Its earlier reference has been found in An Universal Dictionary of the Marine written by William Falconer and published in 1769 in similar meanings.

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Batten Down to Hatches – Karla Dorman

Blow away or drown?  You get to
take your pick, lucky you!  Severe
storms in the forecast from later
tonight, through the day tomorrow –

hail, high winds, tornadoes, heavy
rain – the whole shooting gallery
being aimed at North Texas.  All
we can do is hope and pray and

batten down the hatches and wish
we had adequate shelter … hate
this time of year, I really do.
Would much rather have ice or snow.

The poem is a summary of a Texan who has to face the hails, high winds, heavy rains, and tornadoes daily. The poet has used this phrase as the title of this poem and in the third stanza to show that each Texan wishes to have a good shelter and good weather. The phrase shows the meanings that they are to be ready for dangers.

Example #2

Poetry of Arctic and Life Experiences by Edward Collinson

I have woken to a brand new day
The sun it shines upon the bay
The boats within the harbor float
And on the hill grazes the goat

The little town deep in sleep
While on the water the fish do leap
I see it out beyond the tide
The ocean liners they do abide

Now the town itself does wake
And of the night it does shake
Getting ready with the fishing fleet
The boxes of nets on board put neat

For once the boats get on the go
It’s batten down hatches and sails that blow
They’re off again to the fishing ground
They won’t be seen until homeward bound.

The poem shows the use of this phrase in the fourth stanza. Though the poet pictures the whole scene from the very first stanza, he is prepared for the worst as the poem is about to conclude. The town is located on the seashore, where boats are anchored in the harbor. However, as they prepare to sail, the poet states that they have to be ready to face any impending disaster. The phrase here means that when the sailors are fishing, they must ready to face the danger.

Example #3

Batten Down the Hatch by Snow Patrol

Batten Down The Hatch
‘Cause we’re all coming in
Like uninvited guests
Romancing everything

Keep your hands away
From what you can’t afford
We don’t think that we’ll stay
Now that you look bored

God only knows
What Brian Wilson meant
Pick out your clothes
With some real intent

You don’t seem to care
That I’ve been waiting here
Pulling out my hair
For you to come, my dear

Here the singer asks his friend to see the danger in their arrival as there will uninvited guests who would be daydreaming around his place. However, at the same time, he makes his friend realizes that he should not worry about Brian Wilson. The poem is about the extravagant parties usually thrown by the upper class and celebrities for vanity. The speaker tells his friend that he or she has been waiting for him eagerly.

Example #4

Diary of a Twentieth-Century Elizabethan Poet by Mark Mandell

Patter called out. “Batten down the hatches!” and Grandpa pulled out a chair for Lulu between himself and meet.

“Dad? Wouldn’t you like to sit next to Percy?” Mater inquired. “Batten down the hatches! Patter called.

The above excerpt shows the use of this phrase. Here, Patter (father) warns his father, (Percy’s grandfather) about the coming danger. The book is filled with humor and entertaining at the same time. Here the usage of the same phrase twice creates a comical effect and tension to the reader. It is used in its original form with the exact meaning.

Examples in Sentences

Example #1: “Henry is making preparations even before the rains like the people batten down the hatches in the boats before storms.”

Example #2: “Fiona recalled that she forgot to take the laundry. Her mother was very mad at her, and she had to batten down the hatches to face her wrath.”

Example #3: “The Cole family were battened down the hatches for the impending tornado.”

Example #4: “You should always lock your house even if you are living in a secure area. There could be a threat from a burglar. So you should batten down the hatches.”

Example #5: “If you are going on an adventure, you have to batten down the hatches. Carry all the tools and a lot of dry food with you.”