Pep Talk – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Did your manager tell the team to meet in the stock room for a ‘pep talk?’ Is he going to chew you out? This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The expression ‘pep talk’ refers to a short, motivational speech meant to inspire a person or a group. It’s usually only a few minutes long, and the subject matter in the speech will inspire and motivate people to lift their performance. You can use pep talks for sports teams, at the office, or between friends when you’re feeling down.

A pep talk is an influential speech meant to rally people into action. A pep talk increases levels of enthusiasm in other people, giving them the motivation they need to achieve their goals or boost their performance.

If someone says you need a ‘pep talk,’ they’re telling you that you look depressed and demotivated, and you could probably use cheering up.

Example Usage

“I think the team needs a pep talk. After last month’s sales figures, they’re demotivated and need some inspiration from the management team.”

“Do you need a pep talk or something? You sound so down and depressed. Maybe a good talking to will pull you back to the right path in life.”

“That game was horrendous, and my performance was the worst this season. I need a pep talk from someone to get my head right.”

“Oh my gosh. I can’t believe this happened to me. I need someone to give me a pep talk to get my head around what just happened in my life.”


The expression ‘pep talk’ originates from the word ‘pepper.’ According to experts, the phrase has been used as a way to refer to a sense of spirit or personal energy since the mid-1800s.

The use of the phrase as a motivational statement originated in 1926. The first use of the expression to describe a motivational speech appeared in ‘The Mansfield News’ in 1926.

It’s unclear how the phrase spread through culture or when it was popularized with sports and motivational speaking.

Phrases Similar to Pep Talk

  • Motivational speech.
  • Buck up.

Phrases Opposite to Pep Talk

  • Demotivation.
  • Screaming match.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Pep talk.

Ways People May Say Pep Talk Incorrectly

A pep talk is a short, motivational speech. It always occurs in a positive sense, and you won’t use a pep talk to demotivate someone or tear them down. A pep talk is short, so using it to describe a long speech is incorrect.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Pep Talk

You can use the phrase ‘pep talk’ when referring to a short motivational speech. The goal of a pep talk is to motivate someone that loses confidence in themselves and their abilities. The pep talk encourages the other person or persons, giving them the inspiration they need to boost their performance.

It’s common for sports coaches to use pep talks to motivate teams. However, the phrase can apply to any short motivating speech. Your manager could give you a pep talk before launching a new product to inspire you to sell more. Your mom could give you a pep talk when you’re feeling down about receiving bad grades for your exams.

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