Mull It Over: Definition, Meaning and Origin

Last Updated on
June 18, 2023

To "mull it over" means to ponder, deliberate, or think deeply about something before making a decision. It reflects a thoughtful approach, often used when a matter is of importance and not to be rushed. This idiom signifies an investment of time and cognitive effort, systematic processing of facts and possibilities, all to reach an informed decision.

In short:

The idiom "mull it over" pertains to the process of careful consideration or deliberation about a matter before making a decision.

What Does "Mull It Over" Mean?

The idiom 'mull it over' implies a person taking their time to consider, reflect, and ponder upon a subject or decision. It can be related to any matter, from daily mundane tasks to more complex and life-altering decisions.

  • It suggests an approach that is thoughtful rather than hasty.
  • It highlights the importance of a decision, suggesting it's not to be taken lightly.
  • It indicates a measure of personal investment, as one needs to devote time and mental energy.

Where Does "Mull It Over" Come From?

The phrase "mull it over" is believed to have originated from the word " mull, " which was used in a different context in the late Middle Ages. "Mull" was initially a term used in the process of making mulled wine. To "mull" meant to heat, sweeten, and flavor something with spices, which usually referred to wine. The process of mulling was meticulous and slow, involving careful consideration of what spices to use and how much to use. This connotation of careful consideration was carried over to the idiom "mull it over," suggesting a slow, thoughtful process of pondering or reflecting on something before making a decision.

Historical Example

"Excuse me," he said, "but I usually like to think over my plans before I speak of them. There is more to this matter than my personal success. There is a certain responsibility involved. I want a few hours to mull it over. Could I call tomorrow?" 

- O. Henry, "The Green Door" (1906)

10 Examples of "Mull It Over" in Sentences

Here are ten examples to demonstrate the use of the idiom in different contexts:

  • I needed more time to make a decision, so I decided to mull it over until a quarter to one.
  • She decided to mull it over before committing to the project.
  • We'll mull over the proposal and get back to you by next week.
  • After receiving the job offer, I decided to mull it over for a few days before finally hopping in and accepting the position.
  • I need some time to mull it over before I can make a decision.
  • I can see that you're hesitant. Why don't you mull it over for a few days and let me know what you decide?
  • After meeting with the potential investors, she took some time to mull it over before deciding to partner with them, knowing they were the salt of the earth.
  • You don't have to answer right now. Mull it over and get back to me next week.
  • The committee will mull over the proposal and make a decision by next month.
  • After receiving the unexpected promotion, the employee took some time to mull it over before accepting the offer, and when they did, they exclaimed, You've made my day!

Examples of "Mull It Over" in Pop Culture

"Mull it over" has been used in various pop culture contexts, including books, movies, television shows, and songs. Here are some examples of how the idiom has been used:

  • In a line from the TV series Friends, Ross says, "Mull it over, you guys, just... mull it over."
  • In the movie The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg tells Eduardo, "Why don't you just mull it over? Meanwhile, I'll be at the bar…"
  • In the book The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the character Daisy Buchanan is quoted as saying, "I'll mull it over some more and give you a call."
  • The song "Time to Pretend" by MGMT includes the lyrics, "Mulling over the banking details…."
  • In the TV show Breaking Bad, the character Walter White says, "Mull it over. And if you feel the same way I do, call me, and we'll talk details."
  • The song "Decide to Be Happy" by MisterWives contains the line, "You might want to mull it over, want to mull it over."
  • In Stephen King's novel Doctor Sleep, one of the characters says, "I need to mull it over before making any hasty decisions."
  • The song "I'm All You Need" by Sam Smith has the line, "Mull it over, mull it over, judge me not."

Other Ways to Say "Mull It Over" in Sentences

There are several alternative expressions that convey a similar meaning to "Mull it over."

Some of these include:

  • Let's contemplate this idea for a bit.
  • I need to ponder his current job or pursue a new opportunity.
  • Before committing to a long-term relationship, Sara thought it would be best to mull it over and discuss it with her friends and family.
  • The football coach decided to mull it over before selecting the team's starting quarterback for the season.
  • When presented with a difficult ethical dilemma, it is often best to mull it over rather than make an impulsive decision.
  • Mary told her children they could get a puppy. Still, she wanted to mull it over and make sure they were ready for the responsibility.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Mull It Over"

  • What is the meaning of the idiom "mull it over"?

The phrase "mull it over" means to think about something carefully for a period of time before making a decision.

  • Where does the idiom "mull it over" come from?

The phrase "mull it over" is believed to have originated from the Middle English word "mullen," meaning to ponder or study. The precise origin of the phrase is unclear but it is thought to have emerged in usage in the late 19th or early 20th century.

  • How often is the idiom "mull it over" used in everyday language?

The phrase "mull it over" is quite commonly used in English-speaking cultures, particularly when discussing decisions that require careful thought or consideration.

  • Can the idiom "mull it over" be used in formal writing?

While idioms like "mull it over" can add color to language, they are generally used in a more informal or conversational context. In formal writing, it might be better to use phrases like "consider it carefully" or "ponder upon it".

  • Are there synonyms for the idiom "mull it over"?

Yes, there are several synonyms for "mull it over," such as ponder, consider, contemplate, think over, deliberate, and reflect on.

  • Is the idiom "mull it over" used in other languages?

While the specific idiom "mull it over" is unique to English, many languages have their own phrases or idioms that convey a similar meaning of considering something carefully or thinking something through.

  • Can the phrase "mull it over" be used in a negative context?

Like any idiom, "mull it over" can be used in a variety of contexts, including negative ones. For example, someone might say, "I've been mulling it over, and I've decided not to accept the job offer."

  • Can "mull it over" be used to refer to a group decision?

Yes, "mull it over" can refer to both individual and group decisions. For example, a group or committee might "mull over" a proposal before deciding whether to accept it.

  • Is there a certain timeframe for "mulling something over"?

No, there isn't a specific timeframe associated with "mulling something over." The phrase simply suggests that some amount of time - which can vary depending on the context - will be spent in consideration or reflection before a decision is made.

  • What is the past tense of "mull it over"?

The past tense of "mull it over" is "mulled it over." For example, "I mulled it over and decided to take the job."

Final Thoughts About "Mull It Over"

Understanding the origin and usage of the idiom "mull it over" provides insight into its integral role in English idiomatic expressions. The idiom's significance lies in its depiction of the careful and thoughtful decision-making process. It serves as a reminder of the importance of taking the time to think through decisions thoroughly, reflecting the meticulous process of its origin.

  • The phrase originates from the Middle Ages, deriving from the process of mulling wine, which involves careful and thoughtful consideration.
  • The idiom "mull it over" suggests thinking deeply about something before making a decision, reflecting its origin from the careful and slow process of preparing mulled wine.
  • It has been used in English literature since at least the early 20th century, as demonstrated in works by authors like O. Henry.

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