Stock-still is an idiom that is hundreds of years old. 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. 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 like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations 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 stock-still, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Stock-still means not moving, completely motionless. Stock-still implies being as physically quiet as a statue. The idiom stock-still is a hyphenated compound word according to the Oxford English Dictionary; however, it is often rendered as two, separate words with no hyphen. The expression stock-still originated in the 1400s. The word stock in stock-still means a tree stump; it is derived from the Old English word, stoc. In effect, the word stock-still means as immovable as a tree stump. Surprisingly, the idiom is still in use with its original meaning, even though the definition of stock to mean tree stump has fallen out of favor.


To get good footage of the birds, she has to stand stock-still despite aching shoulders, a stiff neck, and gawking onlookers. (The Australian)

There was a persistent scratching sound from beneath the floorboards, and every once in a while her dog would stand stock-still and then tremble. (The Asheville Citizen-Times)

Trying to convince people he was a statue, creating the illusion of having stood stock still, but adopting the mannerisms of his character was all part of the skill. (The Great Yarmouth Mercury)

He stood stock still and videoed the river creature as it ran towards him and nosily got close up to him before darting into the undergrowth. (The Newbury Weekly News)

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