Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to tell people that too many people are working on a project? If so, you could say, “too many cooks spoil the broth.” This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.

Meaning

The proverbial expression “too many cooks spoil the broth” means that having too much input from too many people derails progress to achieving your goal.

The more people involved in a process, the worse the result. It’s a way of telling someone that they are employing too many resources. The additional effort is hindering the project or task or preventing effective problem-solving on a challenge in life or at work.

Example Usage

“There are too many judges on this panel. They are all biased, and too many cooks spoil the broth; it’s no wonder the champ lost.”

“There are too many people involved here, and it’s going to affect the project’s outcome. Too many cooks spoil the broth, so reduce the team right now.”

“Don’t these people know that too many cooks spoil the broth? They need to send anyone that isn’t a decision-maker home for the day.”

“I saw Ben and Tim pitching the client together. They weren’t working in unison, and the client walked away from the deal. Too many cooks spoil the broth.”

Origin

The origin of the expression “too many cooks spoil the broth” comes from English historian John Hooker. Hooker published “The Life and Times of Sir Peter Carew” in 1575, which appears as follows.

“There is the proverb, the more cooks the worse potage.”

The modern iteration of the phrase would appear in print for the first time in 1907. English statistician, Sir Francis Galton, used the expression when referencing a contest between villagers involving guessing the weight of an ox.

He discovered that the more people offered their guesses, the closer they would get to the animal’s weight. Galton published his work, “The Wisdom of Crowds,” in 2004.

Princeton University published a paper countering Galton’s work in 2014. The study shows that deciding on the right business strategy experienced hindrance with more people adding their input to the project.

American computer scientist, Fred Brooks, published his essay “The Mythical Man Month” in the 1970s. In his work, Brooks suggests that adding more people to an overdue task slows progress rather than speeding it up.

Phrases Similar to Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth

  • Look before you leap.
  • Too many cooks spoil the soup.
  • Too many cooks spoil the stew.
  • Broken telephone.

Phrases Opposite to Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth

  • Many hands make light work.
  • Two heads are better than one.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Too many cooks spoil the broth.

Ways People May Say Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth Incorrectly

It’s common for people to confuse the use of “to” and “too” when spelling the phrase, making it grammatically incorrect.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth

You can use the phrase “too many cooks spoil the broth” when you’re trying to say that too many people are working on a single task. It’s a way of saying that too much input derails the end result of a project or job.

You can use the saying in social and professional situations. If you’re at the school board and the governing panel can’t make a decision because they are at loggerheads, you could say that too many cooks spoil the broth.

If you’re at work, two salespeople trying to pitch to a client may get confusing for the prospect, causing them to walk away from the deal rather than close on the sale.

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