What Does “Let The Dust Settle” Mean? When Can We Use It?

Every one of us has been through a situation at some point in our lives that made it difficult to see things clearly and for what they are. The phrase “Let the dust settle” comes in as a comforter during these situations.

This article discusses the meaning, history, and usage of this word.

During an incident in which something out of the ordinary or unusual occurred. The idiom “Let the dust settle” refers to allowing time for things to return to normal or how they were before.

Definition

Allowing the dust to settle or waiting for the dust to settle. This means waiting until things have calmed down or returned to normal after a dispute or a crisis.

The best way to define this idiom is; a phrase used to describe what happens after a time of transition or uncertainty when things become simple or calm.

In order to “let the dust settle,” we need to know two things. First and foremost, we must understand that when the dust settles, clarification will emerge.

Second, we must understand that the dust is that: dust and that it will settle if we turn our attention away from it.

If we don’t know these two truths yet, we should at least speculate that they may be valid and be able to test them for ourselves.

Origin Of The Phrase

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This idiom dates from the first half of the 1800s and uses dust to mean “turmoil” or “commotion.”

Letting the dust settle might not be our ideal way of letting things establish themselves. But, after a dispute or a crisis, you wait until things have calmed down or returned to normal.

This idiom is believed to be a wordplay on the word “settle.”

After acknowledging that let’s define “settle”;

The actual and scientific definition of settle is the gradual descent of particulates in the air or particles in liquids due to gravity.

We can consequently determine that dust settles out in the air.

There is also a metaphorical logic behind it. Accepting something that is adequate to the need is also a sign of settling.

This, however, is just a start to exploring this idiom’s origins as it can also be applied to it being initiated in horse racing. Meaning, once the race begins, the dust acts like a visual barrier to the desired goal. Thus, we can also interpret this theory as valid since once the race is over and the dust settles, no pun intended. The situation goes back to normal.

This idiom has been attached to political debates as far as where the phrase came from. Throughout world history, we’ve seen democracy be tainted by leaders who’ve left the general public to settle for a lack of a better world after any debacle.

I also did a while, searching to see if I could narrow it down to one particular origin, but this will come down to what you see fit. Nonetheless, all across the search, the context remains—a consolation phrase is used to give clarity and comprehension in due time.

When Can We Use It?

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Since we’ve defined and somewhat detailed its possible origin.

In the midst of an unexpected or messy situation. It is safest to assume that this term is best used when calming, advising, or reminding any group that a clearer result is planned ahead.

As cliché as it might be, it really goes down to this idiom being the perfect comforter for anybody going through current hardship.

To help you grasp the concept better, here’s a scenario:

Let’s say you hopped on the current crypto craze. And went ahead and invested in a not-so-well-known currency.

Fast forward to 2 years. You have seen other fellow investors succeed. Double and even triple their earnings.

You’ve seen little to no gained benefit, which makes you question the investment.

As soon as things settle down, as they have in the past After the dust has settled from the merger, we will begin working on new ventures.

Let the dust settle in” will be the best idiom applicable in this situation. Since there is no actual way to determine the future, expecting a better outcome would be logical.

But if you’re a pessimist, I don’t know what to tell you.

Grammatical Structure

Let’s break this down to comprehend the grammatical structure of this sentence.

Which happens to be composed of VERB + NOUN + VERB

LET: not prevent or forbid; allow.

DUST: fine, dry powder made up of microscopic earth or waste particles found on the ground, on walls, or in the air.

SETTLE: resolve or reach an agreement about (an argument or problem).

A lot of common sentences have this structure, and some vary based on prepositions and context.

Fun Facts About The Idiom

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Is this idiom found throughout pop culture, you would ask? And, is an elephant heavy? That would be my follow-up question.

There are more “let the dust settle” references amongst pop culture than you’ve noticed.

In music, we can see some of our favorite artists using this idiom for metaphorical use or lay across the feeling of letting things calm down.

Such as;

  • Papa Roach – Won’t Let Up (2012) 
  • Paloma Faith – Love Me as I Am (2017) 
  • And the queen of R&B aka “aunty” Mary J Blige – In the Morning (2009) 

In Film, the most touching movie we could highlight when mentioning this phrase would have to be: “Once the dust settles.”

A 2019 documentary centered on stories of people who survived the disaster or war and are now trying to rebuild their lives.

Really taking the meaning of this quote to a live perspective.

So it would be a safe bet to say this quote has made more rounds than one would think.

Examples In Sentences

  • I’d love for you to come to visit, but we recently welcomed a new boy, so please wait until the dust settles.
  • You have to give the dust time to settle and think about it, and it won’t be entirely my decision anyway.
  • As soon as the dust settles from the move, I’ll call you.
  • People must reacquaint themselves with their roles and obligations, as well as their new colleagues, while we let the dust settle in.
  • I know you won’t see it now, although your mother is upset with you, she’s still your mother. Let the dust settle in.
  • They hoped that the dust would settle quickly and the episode would be forgotten
  • When the dust settles, the budget will be cut.
  • Republican leaders are confident that their ideas will prevail once the dust settles.
  • It’ll be interesting to see what happens when the dust settles.
  • Before we discussed the other matter, we thought we’d let the dust settle.

Synonyms

Waiting or hesitating is a verb that means to put off taking action.

Examples

  • Smooth the waters      
  • Dies down       
  • Delay       
  • Procrastinate     
  • Play for time        
  • Hold off        
  • Sit on        
  • Wait around    
  • Let things cool down        
  • Hangfire      
  • Worry

Antonyms

Examples

  • Be enraged
  • Blow your top
  • Fly off the handle
  • Fume
  • Go ape
  • Go ballistic
  • Go nuts
  • Have a meltdown
  • Hit the ceiling
  • Lose your cool

Conclusion

While looking for the best ways to paint a picture of this phrase, I stumbled upon this poem;

the dust has settled

after a long storm

after flying above 

and all around

every little piece

trying to find its place

‘yes, this is where I belong.’

only to find that it didn’t 

restlessly trying to find its place

until one magical moment

a turning point

the shaking ground beneath 

began to calm

everything began to calm

to standstill

and so the dust began to settle

found its place

and so she began to rise 

she began to grow her roots

grounded and calm 

serene and radiant 

she had found her place 

like mother willow 

right near the river 

-a poem –

Ronja – 2017

Which takes the subtlety of poetry and defines the term. This is the perfect conclusion for a broad explanation of the term.

By Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.