cut the mustard

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From cut (to exhibit (a quality)) + the + mustard ((originally US slang) something adding spice or zest to a situation; something setting the standard).[1]



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. (intransitive, idiomatic) To achieve the expected standard; to be effective or good enough; to suffice.
    Synonyms: be up to par, be up to scratch, be up to snuff, cut it, hack it, make the cut, make the grade, measure up, pass muster
    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: “can’t cut the mustard”, “doesn’t cut the mustard”, and so on.



  1. ^ to cut the mustard” under “mustard, n. and adj.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, July 2023; “cut the mustard, phrase”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]