carrot and stick

Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search


English Wikipedia has an article on:

Alternative forms[edit]


  • (file)

Etymology 1[edit]

From combining two ways to motivate a beast of burden, with the lure of a carrot placed just out of reach, and the threat of a stick behind.


carrot and stick (plural carrots and sticks)

  1. (idiomatic) The simultaneous rewarding of good behavior and punishing of bad behavior.
    • 1876, Lord Blachford, “The Reality of Duty, as Illustrated by the Autobiography of Mr. John Stuart Mill”, in The Contemporary Review, page 523:
      It was this carrot and stick discipline to which Mr. John Mill was subjected, and which he accepted dutifully as flowing from that perfect wisdom of which up to this time his father had been the representative.
    • 1928, Joseph Montague; George Young, Freedom of the Seas, page 159:
      There was no similar carrot and stick for use against the French land armaments.
    • 2000, Anne O. Krueger; Chonira Aturupane, The WTO as an International Organization, page 225:
      The proposal to use the world trade order as a source of carrots and sticks for the pursuit of environmental objectives is based on three illusions.
    • 2008, Paul Lendvai; Ann Major, One Day that Shook the Communist World: The 1956 Hungarian Uprising and Its Legacy, page 227:
      the artful tactic of carrot and stick bore relatively plentiful fruit.

Etymology 2[edit]

From a stick attached to an animal with a carrot at the far end out of reach of the animal, which will compel the animal to walk forward


carrot and stick (plural carrots and sticks)

  1. (idiomatic) A promised reward to encourage good behaviour that is never actually delivered.