What Does Stick in the Mud Mean?

Stick in the Mud Meaning

Definition: A person who avoids new, fun, or exciting activities or ideas.

Origin of Stick in the Mud

This expression originated in the early 1700s. The idea behind is clear, alluding to a vehicle (at the time, a horse drawn carriage) whose wheels were stuck in the mud.

Someone who is a stick in the mud doesn’t want to try new things. In order to emphasize the fact that a stick in the mud is a curmudgeon, the phrase is something stated old stick in the mud.

  • Come on! Don’t be an old stick in the mud!

Examples of Stick in the Mud

definition of stick in the mudIn the example below, one sibling is talking to another about going skydiving.

Jordan: What’s up?

James: I’m going skydiving this weekend! You should come!

Jordan: What? No way! Our cousin died doing that. It’s dangerous!

James: That was a long time ago, and skydiving technology has advanced a lot since then. Come on. You never do anything fun! You should try something exciting for once and stop being such a stick in the mud!

Jordan: I am not a stick in the mud! I do a lot of fun things!

James: Like what?

Jordan: For example, I just completed a 500-piece puzzle!

James: That only proves my point. That’s not fun at all. That’s boring.

stick in the mud expressionIn the second dialogue, two coworkers are talking to a new employee about how to impress the boss.

Herman: Did anyone tell you about what type of employee the boss likes to see?

Melissa: No, not yet. What does she expect?

Allison: She really likes her employees to be forward thinking. She loves fresh and innovative ideas.

Melissa: Really? That’s great! I feel as if I’m pretty creative when it comes to marketing.

Herman: That’s a good start, but she also likes to hear things about your personal life that show you try new things.

Melissa: Oh. I’m not that exciting outside of work.

Allison: That’s okay. Just don’t tell her anything that makes you seem like a stick in the mud. As long as you do something that shows you try new things, she’ll be happy. It could even be trying new foods or joining new activities.

More Examples

This excerpt shows the author claiming one can save money but still be open to new ideas and experiences.

  • Don’t dismiss my insistence on transportation frugality as me being a stick in the mud. When you overspend on transportation, the rest of your financial life breaks down on the side of the road. Your future (saving and investments) doesn’t get the funding it thirsts for, your past persists as you slow your debt pay-down process, and your lifestyle constricts. –USA Today

The second example is about a politician who claims another politician isn’t stuck in the past.

  • “He is not a stick-in-the-mud conservative,” his close friend, House Speaker Paul Ryan, said of him back in 2009. “He’s a younger conservative who believes in expanding the base.” –USA Today


The phrase stick in the mud describes a boring or grumpy person who avoids change or fun.