Egging On: Definition, Meaning and Origin

Last Updated on
June 6, 2023

The phrase "egging on" refers to the act of encouraging, provoking, or urging someone to do something, often in a mischievous or reckless manner.

In short:

"Egging on" means to incite, provoke or spur someone into action, often by persuasion or taunting.

What Does "Egging On" Mean?

The phrase "egging on" usually implies encouraging someone to do something that they might be hesitant about, sometimes irresponsibly or recklessly. It carries an undertone of goading or prompting.

Let's delve into its core meanings and related expressions:

  • It signifies incitement or provocation
  • It describes a person who is trying to cause trouble or escalate a situation.
  • It often applies in the context of encouragement, sometimes of unwise actions.
  • It may also describe the idea of peer pressure, in which you might not have normally done something, but peers goad you into doing it.

Where Does "Egging On" Come From?

The phrase "egging on" comes from the Old Norse word "eggja," which means "to incite." It has no connection with the English word "egg," as in the oval or round object laid by female birds, reptiles, fish, and some mammals. It's been part of the English language since the 16th century. In the past, the phrases "edge on" and "egg on" were used interchangeably, but today "egg on" is the more common of the two.

Historical Example

"The Bishop of Valensa, brother to the Bishop, Langres, one of the Dukes ancient and cabinet Councellors, was he who most egged him on to this."

- An History Of The Civill VVarres Of England, 1641

10 Examples of "Egging On" in Sentences

Here are some examples of using the idiom in sentences:

  • The crowd was egging him on to finish the hotdog eating contest.
  • His friends egged him on to ask for a raise.
  • John, the devil incarnate, kept egging on his classmates to participate in his mischief.
  • After being egged on by her friends, she finally asked him for a dance.
  • The trolls with burner accounts were egging on people to create chaos in the online community.
  • Despite his fear, his friends egged him on to take the roller coaster ride.
  • While batting her eyelashes, she was egging on admirers to pay her more compliments.
  • The crowd egged on the musician for an encore.
  • As teenagers surf the net, pop-up ads keep egging on their curiosity and consumer instincts.
  • Amidst relentless negativity and egging on, it's all about mind over matter to him.

Examples of "Egging On" in Pop Culture

The phrase "egging on" often appears in media related to sports, entertainment, and sometimes even politics, usually to describe encouragement or incitement.

Let's look at some examples:

  • A quote from the illustrated book Delphi Collected Works of Grant Allen: "You perfectly well understood why he wanted to rob me, and you egged him on, you egged him to it."
  • A quote from the 2017 book On The Edge of Tomorrow: "People said that she egged him on, that she was at a party—and you know how things can get out of hand at a party."
  • A quote from the 2015 book The Game Must Go On by John Kilma: "His teammates egged him on, verbally flogging the big horse like bench jockeys as Hank turned second base..."

Other/Different Ways to Say "Egging On"

There are several alternative expressions that convey a similar meaning to "egging on."

Some of these include:

  • Urging on
  • Provoking
  • Inciting
  • Stirring up
  • Spurring on

You can use these alternatives interchangeably depending on the context and the level of encouragement or incitement involved.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Egging On":

  • What does "egging on" mean?

"Egging on" refers to the act of encouraging, provoking, or urging someone to do something, often in a mischievous or reckless manner.

  • How can I use "egging on" in a sentence?

You can use "egging on" to indicate that someone is being encouraged or pushed to do something. For instance, "Despite his fears, his friends were egging him on to face his fear of heights."

  • Where does the idiom "egging on" come from?

The idiom "egging on" originates from the Old Norse word "eggja," which means to incite. It has been used in English since the 16th century.

  • Does "egging on" imply negative incitement?

Not necessarily. While it can imply negative incitement, it can also simply mean encouraging someone to do something they may be hesitant about.

  • Can one use it in a positive context?

Yes, the idiom can be used to indicate positive encouragement, such as cheering someone on in a competition or encouraging someone to take a beneficial step.

  • Is it only applicable in informal situations?

It's more commonly used in informal situations, but it can be used formally depending on the context.

  • Can "egging on" refer to self-motivation?

Yes, you can use "egging on" to describe self-motivation, such as in "My ambition egged me on."

  • Can "egging on" imply peer pressure?

Yes, "egging on" can often involve an element of peer pressure, especially when it encourages potentially reckless or irresponsible behavior.

  • Is "egging on" common in everyday English?

Yes, "egging on" is quite common and is used to express the act of encouraging, provoking, or inciting in various contexts.

  • Can one use the phrase in a professional context?

While less common, it can be used professionally to suggest encouragement or motivation, such as "The boss egged on the team to meet the project deadline."

Final Thoughts About "Egging On"

The idiom "egging on" represents the act of encouraging or inciting someone to do something. It is often used in situations where someone is being pushed or persuaded to act, especially in cases where they may be reluctant or hesitant.

Here's a quick recap:

  • It refers to the act of encouraging, provoking, or pushing someone to do something.
  • Its origin is traced back to the Old Norse language, transitioning to English usage in the 16th century.
  • It is applicable in a variety of contexts, reflecting its flexibility and adaptability in the English language.

Whether it's in a playful dare, a competitive setting, or a situation of peer pressure, "egging on" conveys that extra push that might lead someone to act. It serves as a reminder of the power of influence and the role encouragement plays in decision-making.

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