Stir up a hornets’ nest and stir up a hornet’s nest are two versions of an
an idiom that came into use in the latter half of the eighteenth century. 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, 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. English 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 have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, on the ball, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. 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. We will examine the meaning of the idiom stir up a hornets’ nest or stir up a hornet’s nest, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.
To stir up a hornets’ nest or to stir up a hornet’s nest means to make trouble, to provoke, to make someone angry, to cause a problem. To stir up a hornets’ nest or to stir up a hornet’s nest means to create an unpleasant situation. The term hornet’s nest is also used by itself to mean a dangerous, unpleasant, or complicated situation fraught with difficulties. A hornet is known to be an insect that is easily agitated, and may sting with little provocation. The hornet’s sting is particularly painful. If one stirs a hornets’ nest, the insects will pour out to defend their home and sting the perpetrator unmercifully. Hornets are a type of large wasp, and may sting repeatedly. They do not die upon stinging a prey. Hornets build nests from chewed tree bark. The idiom stir up a hornets’ nest or stir up a hornet’s nest came into use in the mid-1700s. Both spellings are correct, but the Oxford English Dictionary uses the stir up a hornets’ nest spelling. Related phrases are stirs up a hornets’ nest or stirs up a hornet’s nest, stirred up a hornets’ nest or stirred up a hornet’s nest, stirring up a hornets’ nest stirring up a hornet’s nest.
The U.S. system is a hornets’ nest of cannibalism, with dairies getting increasing larger with fewer producers, he said. (The Capital Press)
But the bishop stepped into a social media hornets’ nest after he cited another media-savvy public intellectual, Jordan Peterson, among “signs of hope” for engaging America’s “nones”—that millennial cohort of the religiously unaffiliated, whom Bishop Barron called the “second greatest crisis” facing the church. (American Magazine)
“They get snarled up in that hornet’s nest because one of the best ways to threaten a partner is to threaten the children,” she said. (The Appleton Post Crescent)
That bill stirred a hornet’s nest, especially among the Valley’s Newa community. (The Nepali Times)