cut the mustard

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

  • Probably from likening the pungency of the spice mustard as a superlative or as something that adds zest to a situation.
  • Possibly derived from the idiom 'to pass muster', an expression for assembling military troops for inspection. A troop who has achieved excellent performance in, for example, a room inspection, is allowed to skip, or "cut" having to stand a formal muster or formation and go on liberty early, etc.

Verb[edit]

to cut the mustard (third-person singular simple present cuts the mustard, present participle cutting the mustard, simple past and past participle cut the mustard)

  1. (idiomatic) To suffice; to be good or effective enough.
    Give me the bigger hammer. This little one just doesn't cut the mustard.

Usage notes[edit]

  • This idiom usually appears in negative polarity contexts: “doesn't cut the mustard”, “can't cut the mustard”, and so on.

Synonyms[edit]

Translations[edit]

References[edit]

  • "Cut the mustard" in Michael Quinion, Ballyhoo, Buckaroo, and Spuds, 2004.