Prime the Pump – Idiom, Meaning and Origin

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

To prime the pump means to take preliminary action to stimulate a desired outcome. Ever given something a little boost to get it started, like an old lawnmower that needs that first tug? That’s the idea behind this idiom.

The phrase has tangible roots, reminiscent of old hand-operated water pumps that needed water poured into them before they could function properly. But it’s not just about pumps; it’s a metaphor used in economics, business, and many facets of life.

Idioms like this one sprinkle our language with vivid imagery, connecting the dots between literal actions and broader concepts. These linguistic gems bring flavor to our conversations, making them more colorful and relatable.

So, if you’re curious about the nuances of this idiom and how it fits perfectly into various contexts, stick around! I’m about to dive into its origins, meaning, and examples. Let’s explore together!

The Meaning of Prime the Pump

Prime the Pump – Idiom Meaning and Origin

Prime the pump conveys the notion of taking measures to ensure the growth or success of a venture, notably within the economic realm. In the context of economics, it has come to mean the act of investing money, often by governments, to stimulate growth or rejuvenate a stagnant economy.

But its versatility doesn’t end there. Beyond economics, it can broadly describe any action taken to initiate or encourage a process. Think of it as giving a gentle nudge to ensure a smooth start, whether in a new project, a budding venture, or even nurturing a fresh idea.

Prime the Pump Origin and Etymology

Prime the Pump Ngram
Prime the pump usage trend.

The phrase “prime the pump” originates from the idea of pouring water into a water pump to get it working properly. This priming action makes sure that the pump is filled with liquid so it can function efficiently when someone comes along to retrieve water.

During the 1930s, the expression evolved and began to be applied to situations metaphorically, especially in economic contexts, to indicate the infusion of money or resources to stimulate growth. Donald Trump claims to have coined the phrase as an idiom, but Google Ngrams says otherwise.

Synonyms for Prime the Pump

  • Jump-start
  • Kick-start
  • Boost
  • Stimulate
  • Catalyze
  • Warm it up

Prime the Pump Examples in a Sentence

Prime the Pump – Idiom Meaning and Origin 1

  • The government hopes that new tax cuts will prime the pump for economic growth next year.
  • Investing in training sessions for the staff is like priming the pump for future innovations and breakthrough products.
  • The toy company primed the pump with a holiday teaser ad before launching the product in time for Christmas.
  • If sales are sluggish, we might need to prime the pump with some online sales and promotions.
  • I know it’s tacky, but I always start my meetings with a joke just to prime the pump.
  • My favorite author primed the pump with a prequel to her upcoming series.
  • We had a few beers to prime the pump before the big bachelor party.
  • Offering free trials is a classic way to prime the pump in the software business.
  • The new policy is expected to prime the pump for investments in the renewable energy sector.

Give It a Little Gas

So, to jump-start a situation, remember the idiom “prime the pump” and watch how it pumps some character into your conversation. Idioms like this one not only enliven our speech but also tell little stories of their own. So, learn as many idioms as you can! We’ve got plenty on our site!