Egg On: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
September 28, 2023

The expression "egg on" refers to encouraging or inciting someone to do something, often something risky, irresponsible, or potentially dangerous. It's a verbal nudge to prompt someone to take action, which may not always be in the person's best interest. The phrase can find a place in various situations, be it among friends daring each other or in a group setting where members spur each other to step up and take the initiative.

In short:

"Egg on" signifies encouraging or provoking someone to undertake a potentially dangerous or ill-advised action.

What Does "Egg On" Mean?

The phrase "egg on" is used to describe the act of encouraging or urging someone to do something, often something they shouldn't do or are hesitant to do. It illustrates an incitement, sometimes bordering on provocation, urging someone to take an action that can be reckless or risky.

Let's dive into its core meanings and usage:

  • Provoking someone to commit an irresponsible act.
  • Encouraging someone to take a risk.
  • Pushing someone to step out of their comfort zone.

Despite its usually negative connotation, it can also be seen in a neutral or even positive light, depending on the context it is used in.

Where Does "Egg On" Come From?

The phrase "egg on" has historical roots in the Middle Ages. Understanding its origin gives a rich insight into its current usage.

Historical Background

The term "egg" in the idiom is derived from the Old Norse word "eggja," which means to incite or encourage. It has been used in English literature as early as the 16th century. Here is an excerpt from a text dating back to 1530:

“He would egg them on to woo who loved not to wed.”

It vividly portrays the usage of "egg on" in encouraging someone to pursue marriage even if they were not keen on it.

10 Examples of "Egg On" in Sentences

Let us look at how to use "egg on" in different contexts through the following examples:

  • You crack me up every time you egg on Jake with those puns.
  • Jenny is known for making waves in the community with her radical ideas. Recently, she managed to egg on a group of locals to join her in a bold new environmental initiative.
  • Despite the risks, the crowd started to egg him on to perform the dangerous stunt.
  • Greg's older sister would always egg on him to live a little and not get too caught up in his studies.
  • His supporters egged him on to run for a political position.
  • At the meeting, his teammates egged on him to present the new project idea.
  • The audience egged on the speaker to share more about his personal experiences.
  • He wouldn't have done it if his friends hadn't egged him on.
  • While many tried to egg on a hasty decision from him, he remained patient, often reminding them that it would happen all in due time.
  • Her family egged her on to pursue her dream of becoming a writer.

From the above examples, it's clear that the phrase can be used in various negative and positive situations.

Examples of "Egg On" in Pop Culture

The idiom "egg on" has appeared several times in pop culture. Here, we will mention some instances where it has been used:

  • In the TV show "Friends," characters often "egg on" each other to indulge in humorous and sometimes ill-advised situations.
  • Several reality TV shows exploit the concept of "egging on" to create more drama and intrigue.

These appearances help to keep the idiom relevant and widely understood in modern times.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Egg On"

There are various ways to articulate the act of encouraging someone to do something, often depicted by the phrase "egg on."

Here's a list of alternatives:

  • Incite
  • Spur on
  • Provoke
  • Urge on
  • Encourage
  • Goad
  • Instigate

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Egg On"

  • What does "egg on" exactly mean?

It means encouraging or provoking someone to do something, generally something risky or ill-advised.

  • Where did the idiom "egg on" originate?

The idiom traces its origins back to the Old Norse word "eggja" which means to incite or encourage. It has been used in the English language since at least the 16th century.

  • Can "egg on" have a positive connotation?

Yes, depending on the context, it can imply encouraging someone towards a positive or brave action, not just negative ones.

  • What is a synonym for "egg on"?

A synonym could be "to encourage" or "to incite."

  • Can "egg on" be used in a formal setting?

While it is more commonly used in informal settings, it can be used formally but it might depend on the specific circumstances and the audience.

  • How is "egg on" portrayed in pop culture?

In pop culture, it often appears in TV shows and movies where characters encourage each other to engage in various actions, sometimes leading to comic or dramatic situations.

  • Is "egg on" used in literature?

Yes, it has historical usage in literature dating back to the 16th century, with authors using it to depict a situation where someone is being encouraged or incited to do something.

  • Are there any famous quotes involving "egg on"?

While there might be many instances where the phrase is used in famous quotes, pinpointing a universally recognized quote can be challenging.

  • Can "egg on" be used in a positive context in writing?

Yes, writers can use "egg on" to depict positive encouragement and motivation in different narratives.

  • Is "egg on" widely used globally or restricted to certain regions?

It is predominantly used in English-speaking countries and might not be directly translatable or understood in non-English speaking regions.

Final Thoughts About "Egg On"

"Egg on" depicts encouragement or incitement to act, sometimes irresponsibly or recklessly. It can find a place in friendly banter where you encourage a buddy to take a dare or in more serious contexts where someone is urged to step up and take a challenging role.

Here's a quick wrap-up:

  • The phrase can depict encouragement towards both good and bad actions.
  • Traces back to Old Norse origins.
  • Popular in informal speech and literature since the 16th century.
  • It appears in various forms in pop culture, keeping it relevant in modern times.

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