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[eg] /ɛg/
verb (used with object)
to incite or urge; encourage (usually followed by on).
Origin of egg2
1150-1200; Middle English < Old Norse eggja to incite, derivative of egg edge Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for egg on


the oval or round reproductive body laid by the females of birds, reptiles, fishes, insects, and some other animals, consisting of a developing embryo, its food store, and sometimes jelly or albumen, all surrounded by an outer shell or membrane
Also called egg cell. any female gamete; ovum
the egg of the domestic hen used as food
something resembling an egg, esp in shape or in being in an early stage of development
(old-fashioned, informal) bad egg
  1. a bad person
  2. an exclamation of dismay
(old-fashioned, informal) good egg
  1. a good person
  2. an exclamation of delight
(slang, mainly US & Canadian) lay an egg
  1. to make a joke or give a performance, etc, that fails completely
  2. (of a joke, performance, etc) to fail completely; flop
put all one's eggs in one basket, have all one's eggs in one basket, to stake everything on a single venture
teach one's grandmother to suck eggs, to presume to teach someone something that he knows already
(informal) with egg on one's face, made to look ridiculous
verb (transitive)
to dip (food) in beaten egg before cooking
(US, informal) to throw eggs at
Word Origin
C14: from Old Norse egg; related to Old English ǣg, Old High German ei


(transitive) usually foll by on. to urge or incite, esp to daring or foolish acts
Word Origin
Old English eggian, from Old Norse eggja to urge; related to Old English ecgedge, Middle Low German eggen to harrow
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for egg on



mid-14c., from northern England dialect, from Old Norse egg, which vied with Middle English eye, eai (from Old English æg) until finally displacing it after 1500; both are from Proto-Germanic *ajja(m) (cf. Old Saxon, Middle Dutch, Dutch, Old High German, German ei, Gothic ada), probably from PIE *owyo-/*oyyo- "egg" (cf. Old Church Slavonic aja, Russian jajco, Breton ui, Welsh wy, Greek oon, Latin ovum); possibly derived from root *awi- "bird." Caxton (15c.) writes of a merchant (probably a north-country man) in a public house on the Thames who asked for eggs:

And the goode wyf answerde, that she coude speke no frenshe. And the marchaunt was angry, for he also coude speke no frenshe, but wolde have hadde egges, and she understode hym not.
She did, however, recognize another customer's request for "eyren." Bad egg in the figurative sense is from 1855. To have egg on (one's) face "be made to look foolish" is attested by 1948.
[Young & Rubincam] realize full well that a crew can sometimes make or break a show. It can do little things to ruin a program or else, by giving it its best, can really get that all-important rating. They are mindful of an emcee of a variety show who already has been tabbed "old egg in your face" because the crew has managed to get him in such awkward positions on the TV screen. ["Billboard," March 5, 1949]
Eggs Benedict attested by 1898. The figure of speech represented in to have all (one's) eggs in one basket is attested by 1660s.



c.1200, from Old Norse eggja "to goad on, incite," from egg "edge" (see edge (n.)). The unrelated verb meaning "to pelt with (rotten) eggs" is from 1857, from egg (n.). Related: Egged; egging.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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egg on in Medicine

egg (ěg)
The female sexual cell or gamete; an ovum.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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egg on in Science
  1. The larger, usually nonmotile female reproductive cell of most organisms that reproduce sexually. Eggs are haploid (they have half the number of chromosomes as the other cells in the organism's body). During fertilization, the nucleus of an egg cell fuses with the nucleus of a sperm cell (the male reproductive cell) to form a new diploid organism. In animals, eggs are spherical, covered by a membrane, and usually produced by the ovaries. In some simple aquatic animals, eggs are fertilized and develop outside the body. In some terrestrial animals, such as insects, reptiles and birds, eggs are fertilized inside the body but are incubated outside the body, protected by durable, waterproof membranes (shells) until the young hatch. In mammals, eggs produced in the ovaries are fertilized inside the body and (except in the cases of monotremes) develop in the reproductive tract until birth. The human female fetus possesses all of the eggs that she will ever have; every month after the onset of puberty, one of these eggs matures and is released from the ovary into the fallopian tube, where it is either fertilized or discarded during menstruation. In many plants (such as the bryophytes, ferns, and gymnosperms) eggs are produced by flasked-shaped structures known as archegonia. In gymnosperms and angiosperms, eggs are enclosed within ovules. In angiosperms, the ovules are enclosed within ovaries. See also oogenesis.

  2. In many animals, a structure consisting of this reproductive cell together with nutrients and often a protective covering. The embryo develops within this structure if the reproductive cell is fertilized. The egg is often laid outside the body, but the female of ovoviviparous species may keep it inside the body until after hatching.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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egg on in Culture

egg definition

A female gamete.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for egg on



  1. A person: Evelyn's a good egg (1853+)
  2. Anything roughly egg-shaped, such as the head, a baseball, an aerial bomb, etc: bopped him on the egg/ reared back and chucked the old egg (1589+)

Related Terms

bad egg, duck-egg, fried egg, goose egg, hard-boiled egg, have egg on one's face, lay an egg, nest egg, suck eggs, walk on eggs, you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs

[first sense altered fr the mid-19th-century term bad egg, ''bad or rotten person'']

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with egg on

egg on

Incite, urge ahead, provoke, as in Jack is always egging me on to drive faster, or Seemingly quiet, Margo actually eggs on Donald to quarrel with his staff. This expression has nothing to do with hen's eggs but comes from an Old Norse word, eggja, “to edge.” Both edge on and egg on were used interchangeably, but today the latter is preferred. [ c. 1200 ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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