Intermediate+ Word of the Day: stir

stir (noun, verb) /stɝ/ LISTEN

A woman stirring her coffee

To stir means ‘to mix with a constant, circular movement,’ often with a spoon or stick. It also means ‘to move in an irregular way’ or ‘to move very slightly.’ Informally, it means ‘to move around actively.’ It also means ‘to excite, affect or instigate someone or something.’ As a noun, a stir is the movement made when stirring, and it is also ‘a state of commotion and excitement’ or ‘an impulse or feeling.’

Example sentences

  • You need to stir risotto while it cooks to get the right consistency.
  • The leaves stirred in the breeze.
  • Jane stirred in her sleep, but didn't wake up.
  • I got up, as I could hear sounds of people awake and stirring downstairs.
  • The politician's speech stirred the passions of the crowd.
  • Give the soup a stir, would you?
  • There was quite a stir around the office when we heard the news about the new CEO.
  • When I heard his voice, I felt a stir of hope.

Words often used with stir

stir something up: to start or instigate something. Example: “The speaker got the crowd so angry that he stirred up a riot.”

In pop culture

Listen to Bob Marley with “Stir It Up” here:

Did you know?

In UK English, stir is often used informally, without an object, to mean that someone is trying to cause trouble, usually by saying things designed to make other people suspicious of each other. Example: “You can’t trust Tim; he’s always stirring.”

Other forms

stirrer (noun), stirrable (adjective)

Origin

Stir, meaning ‘to move in circles’ or ‘to move slightly’ as well as ‘to rouse, incite, urge or agitate,’ dates back to before the year 900, as the Old English verb styrian (Middle English stiren). It can be traced back to the Proto-Germanic sturjan and the Proto-Indo-European root st(w)er- (to turn or whirl). Stir is related to the Middle Dutch stoeren, and the Dutch storen (to disturb), the Old High German storan (to scatter or destroy) and the German stören (to disturb), as well as the Old Norse stormr, the Old Saxon, Middle Low German, Middle Dutch and Dutch storm, the Old High German sturm and the German Sturm (all meaning ‘storm’), the Italian stormo (a Germanic loan word, meaning ‘a fight’) and of course the English word storm. The noun, meaning ‘commotion, disturbance or tummult,’ first appeared in the late 14th century. It probably came from the verb, but due to its late appearance, some linguists think it could have been influenced, or even come from, a Scandinavian source, such as the Old Norse styrr (disturbance or tumult). The sense ‘movement or bustle’ dates back to the mid-16th century, and almost certainly came from the verb.

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