Grist for the Mill Meaning
Definition: A thing that gives a useful advantage.
Origin of Grist for the Mill
The literal meaning of this expression is about grain. Grist is the corn that is brought to the gristmill to be ground into flour. A gristmill is the building with the machinery to do the grinding.
Therefore, grist for the mill can mean the useful ingredients that the mill will use to make a profit. If something is grist for the mill, it is something that can be taken to the mill and turned into a useful product.
As early as the 1500s people were using this phrase figuratively. In Arthur Golding’s translation of Calvin’s theological writing, we see an early figurative use:
- There is no lykelihoode that those thinges will bring gryst to the mill.
Charles Dickens also famously used the phrase in Nicholas Nickleby (1838):
- Meantime the fools bring grist to my mill, so let them live out their day.
Examples of Grist for the Mill
In this example, two friends are talking about the problems one of them is having with her roommate.
Neha: Hey, Tyrese. Do you have a minute? I want to ask your advice about something.
Tyrese: Sure. Go ahead. What’s up?
Neha: My roommate stole my driver’s license and credit cards. She is refusing to return them until I give her my keys to our apartment.
Tyrese: What? That’s ridiculous! Why would she do that?
Neha: She wants to squat in the apartment without paying for it, and I told her I wouldn’t do the same. So now she wants to kick me out and keep my keys.
Tyrese: I guess you could call the police.
Neha: I think I might have to.
Tyrese: I’m sorry you’re experiencing such a rough situation.
Neha: That’s okay. It’s all grist for the mill. I’ll just put this in my autobiography one day, and it will make it much more interesting!
In this example, two office workers are discussing the inappropriate comments another coworker is making.
Barry: Did you hear what Bob said to me?
Rachel: No, what happened?
Barry: He told me an awful, racist joke!
Rachel: Oh, that’s terrible! Are you going to report him for it?
Barry: I already did. And don’t worry, it’s all grist for the mill. The lawyer said that I should record any further inappropriate comments that I hear from him, and it will help us win the lawsuit against him.
This excerpt is from an article about police brutality and how it is the basis for a play in a theatre.
- All this is grist for the mill in Corthron’s play, the opening salvo in Eclipse Theatre’s three-play 2017 season devoted to the work of the African-American playwright and activist who grew up in Maryland, lives in Harlem, and has had her plays produced at theaters throughout the U.S. and beyond. –Chicago Sun Times
This excerpt uses the expression to talk about possible finance fraud involving a politician.
- For those with such suspicions, Grimm’s misstatement is grist for the mill. If he can’t remember where his donations end and Diana Durand’s start, could he really not know she was steering illegal donations to his campaign? –New York Daily News
The saying grist for the mill is another way to say more material to profit from.