cut the mustard

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  • 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. It may possibly also refer to the idea of 'making the cut of those who are mustered', or being seen as a good example of what is on show. Usage evidence does not support this derivation.


  • (file)


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]