Did walking by that wonderful restaurant make your stomach growl? Has a book you’re reading made you want to learn more about something? In both cases, the idiom “whet your appetite” can describe what you’re feeling. Keep reading to discover the meaning and origins of this commonly-used, but little-understood, phrase.
The idiom “to whet your appetite” essentially means “to become more interested in something“.
As the often misunderstood “whet” comes from the whetstone that is used to sharpen knives, the idiom could be translated to modern English as “to sharpen your appetite“.
The appetite in question can refer to food, of course, but also to anything else. Encountering a little of something can stimulate your interest in more.
Are you curious how the phrase “whet your appetite” can be used in practice? Take a look at these examples to see just how versatile the idiom is:
- “Neal Stephenson’s latest novel really whetted my appetite for more sci fi.”
- “The odors coming from the kitchen definitely whet the appetite!”
- “She’d never tried rock climbing before, but that little drip certainly whetted her appetite for adventure!”
The first use of the idiom “to whet your appetite” was recorded in the seventeenth century, and the appetite in question has always referred to both food and anything else someone might be “hungry” for — including knowledge and entertainment.
Because the idiom is commonly misspelled as “wet your appetite”, it can be helpful to understand where “whet” came from. This word came from the Old English “hwettan”, which meant “to sharpen” (knives and tools) as well as “to incite”.
The word “appetite”, meanwhile, comes from French, and initially referred to desire or longing in general. The word is now mostly, but not exclusively, associated with a desire for food.
Combining these two concepts, it becomes clear that the saying “to whet your appetite” means to sharpen or polish one’s desire.
The phrase “to whet your appetite” (or his appetite, her appetite, their appetites, and so on) can be used in the present, past, and future tense, to talk about anything that might literally stimulate one’s appetite (for food) or figuratively make someone interested in something.
Phrases Similar to Whet Your Appetite
Instead of saying that something whets your appetite, you can also use these phrases:
- Say that something piques your interest — this also means that you’re captivated by something.
- Say that you are getting fired up — again meaning getting excited.
- Say that you are hungry for more — a very different phrase with a very similar meaning.
Phrases Opposite to Whet Your Appetite
- The saying “to lose your appetite” is, like “whet your appetite”, often used as a metaphor, this time with a negative meaning.
- You can also say that you’ve “had your fill” of something, meaning that your appetite has been satiated and you don’t want any more. Again, this can be used metaphorically.
What Is the Correct Saying?
The correct saying is “to whet your appetite” (or “to whet one’s appetite”). It means that something has induced hunger or further interest in a topic or activity.
Ways People May Say Whet Your Appetite Incorrectly
The most common incorrect use of the idiom “to whet your appetite” is “to wet your appetite”, wherein the user misspells “whet” as “wet”.
This can be attributed to the fact that the word “whet” is virtually unknown now. You may know that the stone used to sharpen knives is called a whetstone. That is where the “whet” in “whet your appetite” comes from, as whetting your appetite means “sharpening” it.
Acceptable Ways to Phrase Whet Your Appetite
You can use the idiom “to whet your appetite” to talk about activities or experiences that make you or someone else hungry for more, whether that “more” is food, excitement, fun, knowledge, or anything else.
Next time watching a TV show leaves you excited to see more, for instance, you can say that your appetite has been whetted.