Stuffed To The Gills: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
August 18, 2023

The saying "stuffed to the gills" often brings to mind a certain image. It makes you think of a fish stuffed right up to its gills or perhaps, more generally, something so full it can't hold anymore. The term often describes feeling overly full, especially after a large meal. In a broader sense, it can also refer to anything completely full or packed.

In short:

  • "Stuffed to the gills" means being extremely full, most often after eating a lot.
  • It can also mean something is completely full or packed to its limit.

What Does "Stuffed to the Gills" Mean?

The phrase "stuffed to the gills" describes a state of extreme fullness. If you say you're "stuffed to the gills," it means you've eaten so much that you feel extremely full, as if you couldn't eat another bite. The phrase can also describe any situation where something is filled to its maximum capacity.

Let's dive deeper into its main meanings and uses:

  • "Stuffed to the gills" means being extremely full, especially from eating a lot.
  • It's a way of saying that something is completely full or packed to its maximum capacity.
  • The term doesn't just apply to food and eating. It can describe anything that is full to the brim.
  • For example, a suitcase could be "stuffed to the gills" with clothes, meaning it's so packed that it can't hold anymore.
  • Common similar phrases include "full to bursting," "packed to the rafters," and "filled to the brim."

Where Does "Stuffed to the Gills" Come From?

The idiom "stuffed to the gills" has a quite visual origin. The gills of a fish are near the mouth, so if a fish is stuffed up to the gills, it's about as full as it can possibly be. From this image, the phrase has come to mean feeling extremely full from food or that something is packed to its limit.

Historical Example

"Was there may have been more cicadas, as many were too far digested to be counted. Stuffed to the gills, as with a ramrod. He had dined like a grand duke. And he died like one - damned if he didn’t!"

- Illustrated Outdoor World and Recreation, Volumes 50-51, 1914

10 Examples of "Stuffed to the Gills" in Sentences

To make the use of this idiom clearer, let's look at examples of "stuffed to the gills" from different situations:

  • After eating a hearty meal, I felt at home, stuffed to the gills with comfort food.
  • Her suitcase was stuffed to the gills with clothes and shoes.
  • They gave us a warm welcome, serving a feast that left us stuffed to the gills.
  • Take your time with the buffet; there's plenty to get you stuffed to the gills.
  • The tiny cafe was stuffed to the gills with people waiting for their morning coffee.
  • The bookshelf was stuffed to the gills with old books and magazines.
  • It seemed like no matter how much we ate at the party. The table remained stuffed to the gills with food.
  • Thanks heaps for the meal; I am stuffed to the gills and couldn't eat another bite.
  • The concert was so popular that fans stuffed the venue to the gills.
  • Despite being prim and proper, she couldn't resist the delicious food and found herself stuffed to the gills.

Examples of "Stuffed to the Gills" in Pop Culture

The phrase "stuffed to the gills" also comes up in pop culture, generally to represent fullness to the extreme.

Let's look at some examples:

  • Terry Pratchett uses the phrase "stuffed to the gills" in his book "The Last Continent." He humorously describes a character's eating habits in the book: "Good food and wine had stuffed him to the gills."
  • Piano Magic uses the phrase in their song "On Edge." The lyrics run: "I am up to the neck, I am cut to the quick, I am stuffed to the gills, I am sicker than sick."
  • Passenger also employs the phrase in their song "Brick Walls." The lyrics state: "Although we'd be stuffed to the gills, there's nothing here to eat.
  • In the movie "Broad City," a character proclaims, "Dude, I am stuffed to the gills."
  • In the movie "Home for the Holidays," a character comments that "his own mother had stuffed him to the gills.

Other/Different Ways to Say "Stuffed to the Gills"

There are many other expressions that can mean the same thing as "stuffed to the gills."

Here are a few:

  • Packed to the rafters
  • Filled to the brim
  • Full to bursting
  • Loaded to the maximum
  • Bursting at the seams
  • Chock-full
  • Overfilled
  • Jam-packed
  • Crammed full
  • Full up

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Stuffed to the Gills":

  • What does "stuffed to the gills" mean?

"Stuffed to the gills" is an idiom that means extremely full or overfilled, often used to express the feeling after eating a lot or when a space is packed with objects or people.

  • How can I use "stuffed to the gills" in a sentence?

You can use it to describe a state of fullness. For instance, you can say, "My bonus daughter made a delicious cake for dessert, and we were all stuffed to the gills." or "I can't wait for the holidays when our house is stuffed to the gills with laughter and gifts."

  • Is "stuffed to the gills" an American idiom?

Yes, "stuffed to the gills" is an idiom common in American English but is also understood and used in other English-speaking countries.

  • Can I use "stuffed to the gills" to describe a situation or event?

Yes, besides using it to describe the feeling of being full from eating, it can also describe an event or place that's extremely crowded or a situation where too much of something is used or present.

  • Is "stuffed to the gills" used in casual or formal speech?

"Stuffed to the gills" is typically used in more casual or informal conversation. It might not be suitable for very formal or academic contexts.

  • Is this phrase offensive or polite?

The phrase "stuffed to the gills" is not offensive. However, as with any idiomatic expression, it's important to use it in appropriate contexts and with people who are likely to understand it.

  • Can "stuffed to the gills" be used in writing?

Yes, while it's often used in speech, "stuffed to the gills" can also be used in informal writing, such as in a personal email, a blog post, or a casual article. However, it might not be suitable for very formal writing.

  • Is it used more in a particular region?

While the phrase "stuffed to the gills" is commonly used in American English, it's understood and used in various English-speaking regions.

  • Does the phrase have a literal meaning?

While the phrase might sound like it's about fish, it's not really. It's an idiom, which means its meaning isn't based on the literal definitions of the words it contains. The "gills" in the phrase are actually referring to the top of the throat, adding to the imagery of being filled up to the top.

  • What's the best way to respond when someone says they're "stuffed to the gills"?

It largely depends on the context. If it's after a meal, you might say something like, "I can see why, the food was delicious!" If it's about a crowded place, a possible response could be, "Sounds like it was quite the popular event!"

Final Thoughts About "Stuffed to the Gills"

"Stuffed to the gills" is a colorful way to express a state of extreme fullness or overcapacity. It can apply to a variety of situations, from describing your feeling after a hearty meal to noting how crowded a concert was.

Here's a quick recap:

  • "Stuffed to the gills" means being extremely full or overfilled.
  • People widely use this idiom in casual conversation to describe a personal feeling or situation.
  • Although the phrase might make you envision a fish, the 'gills' here allude to the top of the throat, intensifying the image of being completely full.
  • When employing idioms like "stuffed to the gills," always consider the context and make sure they're suitable for the situation and comprehensible to the listeners or readers.

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