Stir the Pot or Stirring the Pot – 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.

If you don’t know a pot stirrer in your life, then you’re probably the stirrer of the pot in your friend’s circle! But wait! What’s a pot stirrer, and is it a bad thing? Not necessarily. It just depends on what the expression is applied to. So, let’s take a look at this term and see what it’s all about.

What Does Stirring the Pot Mean?

Stir the Pot or Stirring the Pot Origin Meaning

“Stirring the pot” is considered an idiomatic expression that means to intentionally cause trouble and controversy or to agitate whatever situation at hand. If you know someone who is always trying to cause tension between other people or just can’t help themselves from spreading unnecessary gossip, then you’ve got yourself a pot stirrer, my friend!

Stir the Pot vs. Stirring the Pot

At first, you might think “stir the pot” and “stirring the pot” are interchangeable, but there is one big difference between the two, and that’s tense. “Stir the pot” is what you’d call an imperative phrase because it’s a command or instruction you give to someone to provoke them to cause trouble. But it can also be used as the present tense of the phrase’s meaning.

  • Don’t invite Casey; she’ll just stir the pot and make things worse.
  • I told Amy to stir the pot at work to get everyone riled up about the horrible holiday bonus.

When you look at “stirring the pot,” you’re looking at the gerund form of the phrase because it refers to the act of causing trouble or agitation itself. This can be used in both present and past tenses.

  • Look at me. I’m stirring the pot.
  • I used to love stirring the pot between my friends, but I’ve grown and matured.

Origin of the Phrase Stir the Pot

“Stir the pot” is a phrase with its roots in the literal act of stirring a cooking pot. When cooking something in a giant pot, you have to stir it to keep the ingredients from sinking to the bottom and sticking. Stirring causes everything to rise to the surface and bump together; it also helps release flavors.

So, by analogy, “stirring the pot” in an idiomatic sense implies that you’re intentionally mixing things up or creating some sort of turmoil just to make a boring situation more thrilling.

What’s Another Word for Stirring the Pot?

Stir the Pot Examples in a Sentence

Stir the Pot or Stirring the Pot Origin Meaning 1
  • Jane is so chaotic and always stirs the pot when it comes to office gossip, spreading rumors just to watch the drama unfold.
  • He decided to stir the pot and suggested a controversial title for the next book club discussion.
  • Jasmine, I wish you would stop trying to stir the pot; we don’t need any more conflict in our family.

Examples With “Stirring the Pot”

  • Stirring the pot is a favorite pastime of Henry’s because he enjoys watching people argue when it doesn’t involve him.
  • My sister has a habit of stirring the pot, so I try not to invite her when I’m hanging out with friends.
  • He just couldn’t resist stirring the pot during the meeting and brought up the fact that our manager had been absent for most of his shifts.

Don’t Stir the Pot…Unless You’re Cooking

Now does it make sense? Both “stir the pot” and “stirring the pot” stem from the same expression. One is just reserved for the present tense, and the other for the past tense. I hope my grammar guide helped explain everything you needed to know.