rousing, exciting, or thrilling: a stirring speech.
moving, active, bustling, or lively: a stirring business.

noun Usually stirrings.

a mental impulse, sensation, or feeling: stirrings of hope.
a small movement: the best thing she could do was to pretend that her husband's nocturnal stirrings didn't wake her

Origin of stirring

before 900; Middle English stiringe, Old English styriende. See stir1, -ing2
Related formsstir·ring·ly, adverbun·stir·ring, adjective



verb (used with object), stirred, stir·ring.

to move one's hand or an implement continuously or repeatedly through (a liquid or other substance) in order to cool, mix, agitate, dissolve, etc., any or all of the component parts: to stir one's coffee with a spoon.
to set in tremulous, fluttering, or irregular motion: A soft breeze stirred the leaves.
to affect strongly; excite: to stir pity; to stir one's heart.
to incite, instigate, or prompt (usually followed by up): to stir up a people to rebellion.
to move briskly; bestir: to stir oneself.
to move, especially in a slight way: He would not stir a finger to help them.
to rouse from inactivity, quiet, contentment, indifference, etc. (usually followed by up): to stir up his potential.
to bring up for notice or discussion.
to disturb; trouble.

verb (used without object), stirred, stir·ring.

to move, especially slightly or lightly: Not a leaf stirred.
to move around, especially briskly; be active: Everyone in the house was stirring.
to become active, as from some rousing or quickening impulse.
to be emotionally moved or strongly affected.
to be in circulation, current, or afoot: Is there any news stirring?


the act of stirring or moving.
the sound made by stirring or moving slightly.
a state or occasion of general excitement; commotion: The news created a stir.
a mental impulse, sensation, or feeling: a stir of hope.
a jog, poke, or thrust: He gave the refuse a stir with his foot.
movement, especially brisk and busy movement: There was too much clamor and stir for her.

Origin of stir

before 900; Middle English stiren (v.), Old English styrian; cognate with German stören; akin to Old Norse styrr disturbance; see storm
Related formsstir·ra·ble, adjectivestir·less, adjectivestir·less·ly, adverbun·stir·ra·ble, adjectiveun·stirred, adjectivewell-stirred, adjective

Synonyms for stir

Synonym study

17. See ado.

Antonyms for stir

17. quiet. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for stirring

Contemporary Examples of stirring

Historical Examples of stirring

  • The captain had told him to be back in an hour, and he felt that it was time for him to be stirring.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • What I hear at night is the creaking of stairs, when I know that nobody ought to be stirring.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • When Nicias had concluded his stirring appeal, the embarkation of the troops began.

  • This was done, and I was up and dressed before any other member of the family was stirring.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • The liquor of oysters should never be thickened by stirring in flour.

British Dictionary definitions for stirring



exciting the emotions; stimulating
active, lively, or busy
Derived Formsstirringly, adverb



verb stirs, stirring or stirred

to move an implement such as a spoon around in (a liquid) so as to mix up the constituentsshe stirred the porridge
to change or cause to change position; disturb or be disturbedhe stirred in his sleep
(intr often foll by from) to venture or depart (from one's usual or preferred place)he won't stir from the fireside
(intr) to be active after a rest; be up and about
(tr) to excite or stimulate, esp emotionally
to move (oneself) briskly or vigorously; exert (oneself)
(tr) to rouse or awakento stir someone from sleep; to stir memories
informal (when tr, foll by up) to cause or incite others to cause (trouble, arguments, etc)
stir one's stumps informal to move or become active


the act or an instance of stirring or the state of being stirred
a strong reaction, esp of excitementhis publication caused a stir
a slight movement
NZ informal a noisy party
See also stir up
Derived Formsstirrable, adjective

Word Origin for stir

Old English styrian; related to Middle High German stürn to poke, stir, Norwegian styrja to cause a commotion; see storm, sturgeon




a slang word for prison in stir

Word Origin for stir

C19: perhaps from Romany stariben prison
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

Word Origin and History for stirring

"a beginning to move," mid-14c., verbal noun from stir (v). Figurative sense by late 14c. Related: Stirrings.



Old English styrian, from Proto-Germanic *sturjanan (cf. Middle Dutch stoeren, Dutch storen "to disturb," Old High German storan "to scatter, destroy," German stören "to disturb"), probably from the root of storm (q.v.). The noun sense of "commotion, disturbance, tumult" (late 14c., in phrase on steir) is probably from Old Norse styrr "disturbance, tumult" (see storm), from the same Proto-Germanic root; the sense of "movement, bustle" is probably from the English verb. Stir-fry (v.) is attested from 1959.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with stirring


In addition to the idioms beginning with stir

  • stir up
  • stir up a hornets' nest

also see:

  • cause a commotion (stir)
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.