E is For Egg On

Egg On – To urge someone to do something that is usually negative.

Like the time my boy cousin–two years older than me–egged on eleven-year-old me to jump from my grandparents roof in Middleburg, South Africa. I did it. It hurt like hell, but I acted like it was no big deal, well, mostly. I gained a small measure of respect for that. For a while.

So where did this term come from? Turns out that ‘egg’ of ‘egg on’ is a straightforward variant of ‘edge’, so to ‘egg someone on’ is to edge, or urge, them forward. Egg and edge both have the look and feel of Viking words and this first impression turns out to be correct, as they both derive from the Old Norse ‘eddja’.

Egg has been used as a verb in English since around the 13th century and appears in print in the Trinity College Homer, in the form of ‘eggede’, circa 1200.


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19 thoughts on “E is For Egg On

  1. Ooh…I love to learn about words, AND about you! Funny…I think you might just do it again (if you knock back enough of your hard-won sensibility with enough wine). 🙂

  2. Jumping from the roof? You were some brave little thing. I never did anything of the sort, no matter how much I was ‘egged on.’ I guess I wasn’t much fun to be around as a girl.

  3. I, too, love words. It runs in my family as my sister used to belong to The Word of the Month Club in college. I remember one of her favorite words was bilious. It has to do with being nauseated. Probably why she liked it so much.

  4. When I fist saw your post, Rossandra, I was thinking “egg on” as in “egg on your face.” Of course, that’s completely different from the expression you cite here.

    I recall a time when my older brother egged me on, as in daring me to throw this little metal toy at him. So I did – hit him right on his temple. My mother always said you could kill someone if you hit them on their temple so I was sure I had done just that and ran to my room and locked the door. I knew if I hadn’t killed him, he would kill me the first chance he got. Fortunately, I have no memory of what happened after that.

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