Stick in the Mud – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Would you like to let an entire group of people know that someone is a buzzkill, or have you seen the term above and would like to know more about what it means? The phrase ‘stick in the mud’ might apply to what you mean. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of the phrase.


The phrase ‘stick in the mud ‘is used as an expressive insult that is reserved for anyone who is too reserved or conservative for everyone else in the discussion or group.

If someone is a ‘stick in the mud’ then it is the same as telling them that they are a buzzkill.

To call someone a ‘stick in the mud’ is the same as to imply that they are a wet blanket, a conservative person or a bore to everyone else in the group.

The term ‘stick in the mud’ can be used to point out that someone is not affected by peer pressure, as a subsequent means of increasing the pressure that is implied.

Sometimes the plural expression of the term can also be used to mean that a group of people are all ‘sticks in the mud’.

The implication of the term ‘stick in the mud’ is that someone is old fashioend or out of touch with the desires of the rest of the group.

Example Usage

“He didn’t want to go naked surfing with us, so we just went out without him. He’s such a real stick in the mud sometimes.”

“If you looked at the clothes that this man wore all throughout his twenties, you’ll know he was a real stick in the mud and it’s probably why his wife left him.”

“If you don’t want to go out with the rest of your friends tonight, they’re probably just going to go out without you. You’re a real stick in the mud.”

“My grandfather was a lot of things, and my grandmother says that he was a real stick in the mud that never had any real fun”


The origin of the phrase ‘stick in the mud’ is said to be in the early 1700s, when the main methods of transportation changed to include horse carriages.

When carriages would make it through rough terrain, they could get stuck in the mud – and thus, go absolutely nowhere when everyone else was moving forward.

The phrase ‘stick in the mud’ became more popular in its figurative use from the 1800s on, with the term recorded in news and other media of the time.

If someone is a ‘stick in the mud’ than the phrase is usually used to mean that they are stuck and going nowhere (versus everyone else).

The phrase ‘stick in the mud’ would again achieve later popularity thanks to social media, that caused general use of the term to increase.

Phrases Similar to Stick in the Mud

  • Buzzkill
  • Conservative
  • Wet blanket

Phrases Opposite to Stick in the Mud

  • N/a

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Stick in the mud

Ways People May Say Stick in the Mud Incorrectly

There are several ways in which someone can use the term ‘stick in the mud’ in the wrong way, or misunderstand the use of the term.

Someone is a ‘stick in the mud’ when they are a buzzkill or a wet blanket.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Stick in the Mud

The correct way to use the term ‘stick in the mud’ is equivalent to saying that someone is being a wet blanket. The phrase implies that someone is out of touch with everyone else, or simply that someone is stuck.

Someone can ‘be a stick in the mud’ or just ‘stick in the mud’ can be used as a shorter version of the term where the meaning is implied and not directly said.

For groups of people, the term ‘sticks in the mud’ is rare although acceptable use of the term.

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