Stir the pot

Stir the pot is an idiom with an uncertain origin. An idiom is a word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. British English idioms and American idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations to express ideas that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the idiom stir the pot, when it appeared, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

To stir the pot means to make unnecessary trouble, to agitate, to provoke. Someone who will stir the pot will often cause squabbles between others involved in an endeavor. He may stir the pot to destroy a project, to cause the project to turn out in his favor, or simply because he enjoys making trouble. The expression stir the pot came into use sometime in the mid-twentieth century, and evokes the image of someone stirring a pot of stew. Related terms are stirs the pot, stirred the pot, stirring the pot, pot-stirrer.


Resident Kelly Couture said Selectman Alan Tibbetts is “trying to stir the pot” with his sign, which she called “divisive” and “borderline hate speech.” (The Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel)

We are fortunate to be able to say, or write, whatever we think and can give our opinion anytime we want to, although sometimes it can stir the pot so much, it boils over. (The Moberly Monitor Index)

The cousin of the recently axed Alex Kompothecras has recently led a campaign against “Siesta Key” pot-stirrer Chloe Trautman for her use of a racial slur, which was caught on camera. (The International Business Times)

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