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Stove up

Posted by Smokey Stover on July 12, 2006

In Reply to: Stove up posted by Ron on July 11, 2006

: What are the origins of the phrase "stove up"? The meaning as used seems to be hurt or injured.

A little actual context would help, but I believe your source may be using a variant of what most English-speakers would probably render as "stove in." It refers more often to ships and barrels, but is sometimes used for anything into which a hole can be broken, including someone's head.

I can't guarantee that your "stove up" has anything to do with "stove in," but I'll explain the latter anyway. "Stove" is the past tense of "to stave," treated as a strong verb (as opposed to a weak verb, in which the past tense would be "staved," sometimes found instead of "stove"). Stave as a verb comes from staves (originally plural of staff), of which ships and barrels and various other objects are constructed. When a hole is broken into the ships side, or into a barrel, some staves are, of course, broken in. By transference, many kinds of object or vessel can be staved in, or stove in, even if they aren't made of wooden staves.
Here's a glance at some ways the OED defines stave, the verb:
"2. trans. To break a hole in (a boat); to break to pieces; also, to break (a hole in a boat). to stave in, to crush inwards, make a hole in.
b. intr. for refl. of a boat: To break up; hence trans. to break a hole in...
3. transf. trans. To burst in, crush inwards. Chiefly with in."

I have omitted the examples cited by the OED, as it is unlikely that anyone not already familiar with the usage of the word will want to start using it.


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