In a documentary, a scientist says about a theory:

As an experimentalist, I am not spun up about it.

What does spun up mean? I couldn't find a meaning that makes sense.

  • 2
    It's certainly not a common usage (if I ever heard it before, I'll have just forgotten it for lack of repeat occurrences). Scientists are not usually particularly au fait with modern idiomatic usage. What he probably means is what's more normally expressed using not hung up about it (not particularly concerned about it). – FumbleFingers Jul 27 '18 at 15:52
  • If they were a chemist that used centrifuges would they be "spun down" about it ? – mgb Jul 27 '18 at 16:31
  • Where was this scientist from? – Azor Ahai -him- Jul 27 '18 at 17:28
  • He is probably American and a physicist – h.allami Jul 27 '18 at 19:44

I think it refers to the meaning of spun, as suggested by The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English:

  • Excited, enthusiastic (US 1984)

What does spun up mean? I couldn't find a meaning that makes sense

My Answer is that it is a term used in the Navy. I was a missile technician on submarines in the cold war. When battle stations was announced "Man Battle Stations Missile, Spin up all missiles". This literally meant to energize the guidance gyros, which spin at high speeds in order to work. It was preparation for all out war. It became for thousands of cold war sailors, slang. To get someone angry "I like getting him all spun up" To get hyped up, excited, or angry yourself "I am all spun up"

Perhaps after thousands of sailors from 1960 to present, served on these submarines, it slowly leaked out into the world.

  • This is surely the answer. To spin up has to refer to a physical action of a machine or turbine or similar. Using it to refer to ones mood is just borrowing the terminology. Spinning up is to get something ready, a performance or an activity; I hear this on occasion. To be spun up about is just to be excited about or looking forward to. Glad you brought this out in the open. Oh, and thanks for your service. – Elliot Oct 14 '20 at 1:39
  • Yep, the missileer's version of wound up. I worked Minuteman for SAC. – Phil Sweet Oct 15 '20 at 0:28
  • Magnetic drum storage was also spun-up, but that came a bit later. – Phil Sweet Oct 15 '20 at 0:29

In the context of the sentence above it means, the experimentalist is not upset about something.

However, I've seen the phrase used differently in the Mid-West. "Spun-up" basically means "up to speed" or "educated". If you want to get "up to speed" on a subject or topic one could say, "I need to be spun-up on that experiment" or "I'm not spun-up on that experiment"


I think this depends on context. In the NW US, I'd assume without further context this means they aren't familiar with it. So in this case, I would interpret this to be they are saying as someone who primarily does experiments, they aren't familiar with whatever theory was proposed.

If someone is falling behind, or joins a project late, they need to be "spun up", so that they are "up to speed".

Think of it like a car engine: The first thing that needs to happen to start and engine is the starter has to "spin up" the engine enough that the engine can start running on it's own. Once it's "up to speed" it is self sustaining. It's similar to showing someone the ropes.

I use phrases like this at work regularly: About someone new I could say:

"I'll bring them up to speed" or "I can spin them up"

I would say the first is much more common than the second, but both should be well understood.


It is informal, for sure.

'To be worked up about sth.' means someone is unhappy and agitated because of sth.

'To be spun up' means (for people) to be agitated (but not necessarily unhappy) and (for harddrives) to be active.

So the scientist is not agitated, and possibly not knowledgable, about 'it'.

  • Supported by UrbanDictionary. – VTH Jul 27 '18 at 15:16
  • Thank you, yes I think you are right and that was also my guess actually, because it is consistent with the context – h.allami Jul 27 '18 at 19:46
  • What are the downvotes aimed at? – loonquawl Jul 30 '18 at 4:49

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