In a biographic interview with a person from the United States (New York resident and native US citizen) I hear the following:

So, I decided I can either stew away and feel sorry for myself for the rest of my life, or I can...

I am not sure if I hear "stew away" correctly. If not, what could the proper reading be?

Second, if "stew away" is anyway correct, what is the meaning? I do not find it in dictionaries. From context I imagine it should mean something like be angry, be filled with bad feelings, but do not do significant moves to change the situation.

(Note: consider that I simply could have mis-heared this, or be sitting on my ears and not hear the obvious. The interviewee talks very quickly, and the interview was recorded via telephone. On the other hand, record quality is pretty good.)

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    "To stew" by itself has dictionary entries like what you said. Adding 'away' as a phrasal verb, I've never heard that (grew up in the South), but doesn't sound strange. Adding 'away' seems a reasonable extension, similar to 'waste away', 'fade away'.
    – Mitch
    Oct 9, 2018 at 14:45
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    You can use away to emphasize a continuous or repeated action. He would often be working away on his word processor late into the night.
    – Jim
    Oct 9, 2018 at 14:51
  • @Jim Yes. And "stew away" may have been chosen by some clever-dick for its resonances with "stow away".
    – WS2
    Oct 9, 2018 at 16:36

2 Answers 2


stew verb. OED

c. In figurative phrases, with the sense: To be left to suffer the natural consequences of one's own actions; as to leave to (or let) stew in one's own juice. Cf. fry v.1 3, and French cuire dans son jus. Also in the senses: To be left to one's own devices, to be kept in a state of uneasy suspense, and ellipt., as to leave (one) to stew, to let (one) stew.

My sense:

▶ Stew away - simmer and suffer in your own juices!

And your sentence:

So, I decided I can either stew away and feel sorry for myself for the rest of my life, or I can...

fits the figurative sense in the OED definition.

And here in google books:

There was a cauldron of family secrets stewing away — they all kept them.

and here: google books

Robinson's men found her stewing away on the island, having failed to convince the other Aboriginal women on the desolate hunk of land to murder their captor and steal away in his boat.

  • So you would confirm my interpretation of what the interviewee said? In terms of content it makes sense. I just was not sure if that phrase is really in use, or if I made it up while listening. Oct 9, 2018 at 18:00
  • I have heard its use in AmE.
    – lbf
    Oct 9, 2018 at 22:17

I’m from the South, but at least in our dialect it’s a phrase. I’d say more that the verb is to stew which comes from the literal culinary meaning to describe the way negative feelings can seem to simmer within you, deepening in intensity over time. See the 4th meaning of the verb on Wiktionary.

The opposite of this would be to vent or to let it out.

Let me know if I can clarify anything further.

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