To egg someone on

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Artrella, Apr 23, 2005.

  1. Artrella Banned

    Good morning!

    I was talking to an Irish friend, and he said "to egg X on" and gave me an example which had negative connotation.
    Does this expression convey negative connotation always? Or is it possible to use it with positive ideas?

    Thank you
  2. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    Hi Artrella:)
    I think usually this expression gives negative connotation but not always, please have a look at this example:
    A crowd of youths egged him on as he climbed the wall.
    so the connotation can be positive, neutral or negative depending on the context. However, in my humble opinion, in most cases egg sb on is used to show that the act of encouraging sb to do sth is wrong, stupid and certainly it isn't a good thing, eg:
    She never would have done it herself, but the girls were egging her on.
    Don't egg him on! He gets himself into enough trouble without your encouragement.

  3. jacinta Senior Member

    USA English
    To egg someone on gives the connotation of taunting someone. It also tells me that it is negative encouragement. The boys egged him on until the teacher said, "Stop! or you're all in detention."
  4. lainyn

    lainyn Senior Member

    Canadian English
    I respectfully disagree, Jacinta. I've only ever heard "to egg someone on" in the same way Thomas was explaining:
  5. lsp

    lsp Senior Member

    US, English
    I checked 8 dictionaries, all had the same meaning (prod, encourage, urge, incite), and half added words to the effect that it is usually used to encourage foolish or negative behavior
  6. Artrella Banned


    Hi Thomas :p

    Look this is what I've found in my Oxford
    ME, fr. ON eggja; akin to OE ecg edge —*more at EDGE
    (13c) :*to incite to action —usu. used with on ‹egged the mob on to riot›

    And all the examples I could gather were negative ones.

    Your example is the only one I have read so far, but "climbing the wall" what for? Are you sure this "climbing the wall" is something positive?
    We have to think...

    Regards Thomas!
  7. jacinta Senior Member

    USA English
    I accept what the diccionaries say and I haven't looked up this one about egging on someone. I'm just passing on how I use it and hear it in context.

    I'm not sure we would say, "The crowd egged the team on to win". It sounds funny to me. "The crowd cheered the team on to win," sounds better.

    If someone has to give a speech in front of a crowd, his friends will egg him on until he does. That is not really a negative use but the fact that he doesn't want to do it does have a negative sense.

    Does this make sense?
  8. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    :D :D thought you'd read more than just the one:D
    Now seriously, when I read this example (it's from a dictionary-but I cannot remember from which one:eek: ), I thought also about sth negative like for example a young guy who was supposed to prove his courage being egged on by his friends to climb a wall, but later I imagined such a situation: a bunch of teenagers gathered around a climbing wall who egged on their friend to climb it as fast as he can. I know that the definition says that to egg on sb usually means to encourage sb to sth stupid, wrong, etc. but usually so that's why I thought that depending on context the connotation of egg on could be different in this example...or maybe I just have too big imagination...and confused you...:eek:
    Nevertheless, I do still reckon that in 90% of cases or even more egg on sb conveys a negative connotation.

  9. Artrella Banned

    Ha ha ha!!! Well... you said it was positive... ;) ... and I couldn't find any other so "positive" as yours...

    Yes!!! Yes!!! :D

    Thank you very much Thomas!
  10. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Hey Art GF;

    I will come to Thomas1s' rescue...
    Yes MOST of the time it is negitive..but Not always....
    Ohh lookie what I found..:D

    To encourage or incite to action. Used with on: The racing fans egged their favorites on.
    source: American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.

    te gato;)
    (Tom you owe me one...):D
  11. iKwak New Member

    Do people still "egg" others? :D
    That is a funny concept.
  12. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Not so much people...
    but Houses..and Cars...Yes..
    And it is the worst thing to try and get off of you damages the paint..

    te gato;)
  13. iKwak New Member

    I had that experience. The front hood had been egged on my new car many years ago. It was a very bad feeling. Stupid high school kids! :mad:
  14. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Ahh yes..not a good thing to happen..:(
    Perhaps they were egged on by others to do the egging..
    te gato;)
  15. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    hi Artrella

    I found some more 'positive' usage of egg sb on (since you said you couldn't find any more of it)
    this can have positive, neutral or negative connotation, depending on the person's attitude to military service)
    and this one is rather clear-the connotation is positive (unless sb didn't want to learn French;) )

    ps:having looked it up in at least 20 dictionaries, I'm sticking to that what I wrote before (90% of them give examples of negative connotation of egg on sb)

  16. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    Hi Karen
    It's not only one, in fact I owe you more....God I guess I really go bankrupt:rolleyes:
  17. la grive solitaire

    la grive solitaire Senior Member

    United States, English
    I found this interesting etymological explanation at :

    It's an Old English word, egge, derived from Old Norse and eventually, the Latin and Greek roots acer and acme, meaning sharp and point. Egge meant the sharp edge (also a related word) of a sword blade. If you're going to egg someone on, poking them with a sword will usually prove effectively motivational.
    There is another possible root. In this case 'egg' derives from the old
    English 'eggian' which means 'to spur' or 'to incite', in turn probably derived from the Latin above.
  18. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Hey GF;
    I learnt from the best..You!!:D
    And you are welcome..
    te gato;)
  19. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Oh no..
    I'm not egging you on to do that!!!:D
    if you go will have no nest-egg for the future...
    (I'm still keeping track though..mmm..chocolate)
    te gato;)
  20. avardany Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    What is "egg on" followed by, a gerund, noun, or infinitive? Which of the following options is (more) correct?

    Barbara egged on me to participate in the discussions.
    Barbara egged on my participation in the discussions.
    Barbara egged on my participating in the discussions.

    I already know that the use of the infinitive is right. What about others?

    << I have merged this thread with an earlier on the same idiom.
    Cagey, moderator. >>
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2011
  21. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    None of the above, in my opinion ... unless somebody literally was hurling eggs.

    Concise Oxford English Dictionary © 2008 Oxford University Press:
    ▶verb (egg someone on) urge or encourage someone to do something foolish or risky.
  22. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    As sdgraham said, none of the above.

    Barbara egged me on to participate in the discussions.

    The order has to be "egged (person) on", not "egged on (person)".
  23. timtfj

    timtfj Senior Member

    Northwest England
    UK English
    Also it's more specific than just urging someone to do something: I'd say it has to be something that they would normally hold back from doing. Egging them on means you encourage them to ignore their reservations and do it, even though they know that it's unwise. They've already started along the unwise path, and you're encouraging them to go further.

    On is being used as an adverb meaning onwards or forwards, not as a preposition. That's why it goes after the pronoun not before it.

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