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Whet Your Appetite (Meaning, Origin, Examples)

What does “whet your appetite” or “wet your appetite” mean? These idioms commonly appear in American English. And can be confusing to comprehend.

Learn what this idiom means in this short guide…

What does “whet your appetite” mean?

The right term is “whet your appetite,” which means something that stimulates your appetite or hunger. This term is also used figuratively to indicate stimulation, excitement, enthusiasm, and impression. In that sense, it means something that arouses or stimulates interest.

On the other hand, “wet your appetite” is the wrong term and is never used. The confusion comes from the similar ways both whet and wet are pronounced. They look identical, but they are different words and spoken slightly differently.

The confusion is also due to another idiom “wet your whistle” which originated earlier than “whet your appetite.” That term is no longer in vogue and is hard to find in today’s writing. However, you will often come across the idiom “whet your appetite” in both fiction and non-fiction writing.

Another way to understand this difference is by understanding the meanings of whet and wet words.

Whet Meaning

Whet means to sharpen or hone. This meaning comes from whetstone, a type of stone used to sharpen the knife. Taking a cue from here, the word whet is also used for anything that sharpens something, such as appetite, feeling or sense. It also means to stimulate. This second meaning is inspired by the main meaning – sharpening or honing. The meaning of stimulation is used figuratively to indicate acute, keen, desire, interest or wit.

The whet word should not be confused with wheat which is a type of grain. The whet word has nothing to do with this grain. It is not a new word and has very old origin.

Wet Meaning

The word wet means the condition of soaked in a liquid or liquid covered surface. It generally refers to something that is fully filled or covered with a liquid. For example, a wet fabric or floor.

Now you know the meanings of whet and wet and what they refer to. This makes it easier to understand how “whet your appetite” is different from “wet your appetite”. “Whet your appetite” is the main meaningful term used in writing. It means something that stimulates your appetite or interest.

Now try to make a meaning of “wet your appetite” and it fails. Your appetite or hunger for something cannot be soaked in liquid. You cannot satisfy your appetite by wetting it. So the term “wet your appetite” is wrong. The right idiom is “whet your appetite”.

Example use
Example use

Origin of the Idiom “Whet Your Appetite”

This idiom first appeared in the 17th century. The word “whet” in this idiom has always referred to hunger in the true sense as well as figuratively. It comes from the old English word “hwettan”, which means “to sharpen”. The word appetite is widely known.

It means hunger or craving for something. Now combine these two meanings and you get the meaning – “to sharpen your hunger (or something)”. This is the true meaning when people use the idiom “whet your appetite”

A whetstone has been used for centuries to sharpen the blades of sharp objects like a knife. The meaning of this idiom comes from this process where a knife gets sharpened by moving its sharp part against the stone.

Similar to how the knife’s sharpness is increased, there are things that can increase or stimulate your normal appetite or interest. Some types of foods can trigger your appetite for them. It is not necessary that this idiom be used only in the sense of appetite. It is also used to mean something that stimulates or increases interest.

Examples of “Whet Your Appetite” Used in Sentences

  • The cooking smell coming from the kitchen whet her appetite and she proceeded there to know what is cooking.
  • The inconclusive CCTV footage of the incident whet their appetite to learn more and find out what really happened.
  • Reading this recipe book whet my appetite and now I want to try all these recipes.
  • That bland food will not whet the appetite of anyone.
  • The high return from this investment whetted his appetite to invest more in it.

“Whet Your Appetite” Synonyms

Some similar meanings for this idiom include:

  • whetted the appetite
  • whet the appetite
  • pique the interest
  • create an interest

Is “Whet Your Appetite” an idiom?

This phrase is an idiom and has been in use for several centuries. It has continued to mean the same thing since the time it originated. Whether you are reading this phrase in an old book or a new one, it means the same thing.

At the same time, keep in mind that its meaning is not restricted to hunger for foods only. It is used figuratively for anything that stimulates a desire to learn, get or acquire more of something. You can use this idiom to mean hunger or something that increases your interest. Do not use “wet your appetite” which is wrong, or “whet your whistle” that means something different and is rarely used in today’s writing.


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About the author

Dalia Y.: Dalia is an English Major and linguistics expert with an additional degree in Psychology. Dalia has featured articles on Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, Grammarly, and many more. She covers English, ESL, and all things grammar on GrammarBrain.

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