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Wet vs. Whet

I know the difference between ‘wet’ and ‘whet’, but my question is about the idiom “to wet/whet one’s appetite.”

I’ve seen it both ways, but ‘whet’, to me, seems to be the most appropriate word. Which one is it?

  • April 7, 2009
  • Posted by sara2
  • Filed in Usage

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Whet is correct. In fact Merriam-Webster gives "whet the appetite" as an example.

EGKG1 April 8, 2009 @ 6:35AM

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Agreed. "Whet" is correct. An appetite is an intangible and, therefore, cannot be "wet." :D

scyllacat April 12, 2009 @ 12:54PM

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Since whet means to simulate or make more accute, whet would be correct.

bahb May 18, 2009 @ 11:36AM

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"Whet" is to sharpen a blade, so it means figuratively to make appetite keener.

Which brings me to a genuine peeve:
"Hone" is also to sharpen a blade, or metaphorically a skill or interest -- so where do we get "hone in on" something, tracking something and getting closer to it, when the phrase should be "home in on" the thing? This is the problem again of learning mostly by (mis)hearing and not doing enough reading to see as well as hear an idiom or other usage.

chironsdaughter July 6, 2009 @ 4:34PM

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These people are all correct. This one is intuitive, and the problem only arises when people get "whet your appetite" confused with "wet your whistle", making these phrases only a bit less confusing than the "cut the mustard"/"pass muster" problem:

"*Wet your whistle' predates 'whet your appetite' by some centuries, and was first recorded in the 1386 Towneley Mysteries:

"Had She oones Wett Hyr Whystyll She couth Syng full clere Hyr pater noster."

Whistle here means throat or voice and the phrase just means 'take a drink'."

This explanation is brought to you from

arielle.norman July 12, 2009 @ 8:54PM

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"This is the problem again of learning mostly by (mis)hearing and not doing enough reading to see as well as hear an idiom or other usage."

Mantha, the expression is "horn in on".

i8ashroom2 December 8, 2010 @ 4:04AM

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There are two expressions in question there, Dotter. To "home in" on something would be to gain a more accurate fix on its location by radio signal. To "horn in" on something (or someone) is to impose oneself in a way that interferes or intrudes -- to horn in on a conversation, for example. The expression that is incorrect is to "hone in," which is often misused in place of "home in" by people who do not visualize the expression and are not familiar with its original meaning. "Hone in" makes no sense when analyzed -- to hone is to sharpen.

chironsdaughter December 8, 2010 @ 5:04PM

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I just don't care about getting them right since I would hope I would never use either: they are both cliches.

fmerton December 9, 2010 @ 11:03AM

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I always hear it in relation to something like "here are some screenshots for (upcoming game) to wet your appetite."

I always thought of it more as if you've had a little bit of something and your mouth starts watering and you're like "Damn, I am hungry now!"

Like appetizers.

Granted, I'm not arguing against whet being correct, I'm just saying the way it's often used is able to be taken in another way which would justify the other spelling :)

WirlWind February 13, 2012 @ 1:30AM

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In response to chironsdaughter's post.... Just want to point out that sometimes a technical meaning is more useful and definitive than a dictionary description. To hone a blade is not to sharpen it; rather it is to reshape the burr of the blade (which develops over time) into a more effective shape. To sharpen a blade is to remove steel from it and then polish the edge to the desired shape and bevel. Whetstones are used to remove steel from a blade and therefore sharpen, while a ceramic honing steel or a strop block are to perfect/polish/upkeep the shape rather than actually change it.

Whet is useful from my experience as a long-time cook for one of two applications; to whet ones palate or appetite by utilizing appropriate dishes and/or drinks in a calculated succession, or as in a whetstone, which is solely used for the purpose of changing the blade, (and hopefully sharpening it if you do it correctly). I've not experienced any other applications for the word.

symphoxer August 13, 2012 @ 4:42PM

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As Iron Sharpens Iron - an iron(steel) will bring a Sword(the Word[or your words{that is your thinking and ability to Reason} to a better edge when it is properly whetted against it. So one person or 'friend', can, through discussion with you, cause you, to reflect and meditate upon an issue from another Point-of-view. This meditation can have it's effect on you and may lead you, like a Horse To Water, to See Things in a different Light. So Whetting Your Appetite(for some thing) Much like a salesman whets the appetite of the Mark, or a Brother whets the appetite of a Neophyte for the Word. And so through Brotherly Love(castigation[or castration of neophyte on his journey to (eunuch) priesthood]) your Sword(oration) can too become Sharpened(cleverer) too as you Seek the Light brother.

Stunaepym April 7, 2013 @ 9:53PM

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