Stir-Crazy – Origin, Usage and Meaning

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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 lived through the recent pandemic, you’re probably familiar with the feeling of going stir-crazy and didn’t realize what it was called. We go stir-crazy or feel stir-crazy when we’ve been cooped up indoors for too long. Let’s take a second to go over the finer details of this term and see some sentences that show how to use it correctly.

Stir-Crazy Meaning Explained

Stir Crazy Origin Usage Meaning

The colloquial expression “stir-crazy” is used to describe the restlessness and agitation we feel when confined to a small space or unable to engage in our regular activities for far too long. Things like bad weather, horrible storms, a broken leg or a worldwide pandemic that forces us to stay inside can cause anyone in their right mind to go a little stir-crazy.

When I was fourteen, I slipped on a skateboard and fractured a bone in my ankle. I couldn’t walk for weeks and hated using crutches, so I opted to stay inside and lay in bed for weeks while my friends were out enjoying the summer. Near the end, I felt a little crazy and anxious, which was me feeling stir-crazy.

Origin of Stir-Crazy

Stir Crazy Ngram
Stir crazy usage trend.

The two-word term “stir crazy” originates from the late 19th century, with “stir” being a slang term for prison or jail of some kind. The phrase was first used to describe inmates who became agitated or mentally unbalanced because they’d spent too much time in solitary confinement.

As the years went on, its usage in the English language expanded to include anyone feeling restless or frustrated from being cooped up for an extended period, not just prisoners.

Stir-Crazy or Stir-Crazy

Stir Crazy vs Stir Crazy Ngram
Stir-crazy and stir crazy usage trend.

While both versions, “stir-crazy” and “stir crazy,” are totally acceptable and accurate, the hyphenated version is more common.

Synonyms for Stir-Crazy

Try any of these alternative terms for stir-crazy if you feel you’re overusing the word. Don’t let your readers go… stir-crazy!

  • Cabin fever
  • Restless
  • Antsy
  • On edge
  • Fidgety

Stir-Crazy Examples in a Sentence

Stir Crazy Origin Usage Meaning 1
  • After a whole week of nonstop torrential rain, our entire family was going stir-crazy and begged for the weather to let up.
  • With the entire city under lockdown, many people began to feel stir-crazy from the lack of social interaction and human connection.
  • My stir-crazy children couldn’t wait for the snowstorm to pass so they could safely play outside.
  • Being cooped up in a teeny, tiny apartment for months made Amy stir-crazy, and she longed for a change of scenery, so she hopped on her bike and rode the empty streets.
  • When my brother broke both his legs last summer, he had to stay inside for weeks while I went to school, so he was a little stir-crazy near the end when the doctor finally gave him the green light to use crutches.

Don’t Go Stir-Crazy

Using the term “stir-crazy” is just a fun way of describing how it feels to be locked up or cooped up inside for too long. You can feel stir-crazy after working for a few hours or staying inside during months of lockdown. There’s no limit; it’s all about how you feel.

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