General English



  • verb to move a liquid or semiliquid food around so as to mix it or keep it mixed


  • noun prison. Various Romany (gypsy) words such as stardo and steripen, dealing with the concept of imprisonment, gave rise to ‘start’, an 18th-century British slang term for prison, and later, in the mid-19th century, to stir, which has remained one of the most widespread words for jail or imprisonment in all English-speaking areas, particularly in the phrase ‘in stir’.

Origin & History of “stir”

The etymological connotations of stir are of ‘agitation’ and ‘disturbance’; the notion of ‘mixing a liquid with circular movements of a spoon or other implement’ is a secondary development. The verb goes back to a prehistoric Germanic *sturjan, whose only other living descendant is Norwegian styrja ‘make a disturbance’. It was formed from a base *stur-, which was probably also responsible for English storm.