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As an adjective carrot-and-stick refers to the carrot and stick (also known as the carrot or stick) idiom. The phrase means a methodology or system of rules that incorporates reward and punishment to elicit a certain behavior.

In order to motivate a donkey to move, there are two methods. Either you strike it with a stick or you urge it along with a carrot.

The spelling is uncertain as far as the idiom is concerned, since it is not listed in most dictionaries. The name is carrot and stick but it is most commonly used as an adjective describing something else as having to do with that methodology.

A related idiom is carrot on a stick, which is referring to the act of dangling the reward in front of the donkey to make the animal walk forward, but outside of reach so the donkey does not actually get to eat the reward until the entire journey is accomplished. This can be used to denote something that will never be attained, or something that is the single motivating factor for one’s actions.


Quebec is launching a carrot-and-stick system of increased registration fees–alongside existing incentives–to encourage drivers to switch to more efficient cars, according to the Montreal Gazette. [Green Car Reports]

The Downtown Association’s members advocate a “carrot and stick approach” toward San Jose’s homeless population downtown, Knies said. [Biz Journals]

The use of “carrot or stick” measures to clean up the securitisation market follows proposals published on Wednesday for banks to produce more simple, transparent and comparable asset-backed securities, said a person familiar with the matter. [Financial Times]

Holding a carrot on a stick in front of the voting public, with the promise that they’ll receive the prize in a decade likely isn’t a winning strategy. [Wall St Cheat Sheet]