Dry Run (Origin)

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Origin of the Saying "Dry Run"?

The term "dry run" means a rehearsal.

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Dry Run (Origin)

Examples of Use:

  • We're not in costume today because it's only a dry run.
  • We should do a dry run to make sure the microphones are working.
  • Do a couple of dry runs so you feel totally comfortable.
The term "dry run" refers to firefighter training without using water. More specifically, it relates to hose drills. It is has been in use in this context since the 1890s. ("Dry run" is now used to mean practice or rehearsal in any context.)

Competing Theory

The term "dry run" was popularized by the US military in the 1940s. It originates from firearm training in the military. Specifically, it refers to weapon-handling training before live firing. (Detractors of this theory highlight that there is no reason for the training to be described as "dry." It is clear, however, that the term became popular in the 1940s (evidence), presumably as soldiers trained for World War II.)

Competing Theory

The term "dry run" has its origins in the building trades, where apprentice bricklayers would lay bricks without mortar and apprentice carpenters would piece wood together without glue.

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