I am studying a book and there is a sentence: "By early fall, war was brewing in Iraq."

What does brew mean in this context? I thought 'brew' could only be associated with a beverage.


A dictionary should give you the various definitions.

Brewing is that process through which by means of heating up a substance immersed into a liquid that liquid becomes a solution of that substance in the liquid (beer, coffee, tea, etc.); this concept has given rise to the metaphorical definition of the verb "to brew (up)" used only in the continuous tenses (OALD, 4).

As the substance progressively adulterates the liquid and turns it into something else, the belligerent trends in the societies adulterate the ways of thinking and turn them into ways of thinking receptive to the idea of war.

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    I suspect that brew has migrated from being used as a metaphor to having its own meaning to contrive, bring about, foment. Any comments on this are welcome. – Bruce Murray Jun 27 '20 at 9:36
  • The earliest I can find is "mischief is brewing" from the late 1700s ---books.google.com/ngrams/… – chasly - supports Monica Jun 27 '20 at 10:08
  • @BruceMurray That's clear from the entry "brew" in OALD; "to brew (up)" is a verb in its own right that is used, not for pleasant and concrete concepts (beer, coffee, tea, etc.) but often unpleasant ones -- of possibly a rather abstract nature -- (war, storms, popular discontent, social change, etc.), the physical process associated with the plain acception of the verbal form being several transformed, analogous, notions on many possible levels: animal minds, human minds, meteorological conditions, elements of scientific progress, economis conditions, etc. – LPH Jun 27 '20 at 10:15
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    @Bruce Murray Here's a view contrary to 'brew has ceased to be non-literal in these broadened usages': McGraw-Hill Dictionary of ... Idioms ...2002: 'brew a plot' Fig. to plot something; to make a plot. The children brewed an evil plot.. // – Edwin Ashworth Jun 27 '20 at 14:06
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    'brew something up' 1. Lit. to brew something, as in making coffee or tea. ... 2. Fig. to cause something to happen; to foment something. I could see that they were brewing some kind of trouble up. 'brew up' Fig. to build up; [for something] to begin to build and grow. (Typically said of a storm.) A bad storm is brewing up in the west. Something serious is brewing up ...' And if these usages are figurative, they are metaphorical. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 27 '20 at 14:06

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