As Keen As Mustard

Meanings of “As Keen as Mustard”

The phrase “as keen as mustard” means a very eager and enthusiastic person. It also means a person fond of doing something out of curiosity and enjoying it. However, its overall meanings depend on the context in which it is used. Sometimes “keen” is used for looking at something closely and not enthusiasm.

Origin of “As Keen as Mustard”

The phrase “as keen as mustard” is stated to have originated from mustard. Mustard was, and till now is a must ingredient for cooking beef because it would add flavor and increase appetite. The phrase is also stated to have been referred by William Walker in his book Phraseologica Anglo-Latina, or Phrases of the English and Latin Tongue published in 1672. It has been referred to exactly in the same words “as keen as mustard,” having the same meanings. During the early 20th century “That fellow is a mustard” was used by E. Wallace, in King by Night.

Examples in Literature


As Keen as Mustard by Bernard F. Asuncion

K-eep keen as mustard,
R-emain faithfully ardent;
E-nthusiastic endeavor
S-aves you from being indifferent.
E-agerly stay keen as mustard, let not your walk go amiss;
L-earn to be anxious, for you to gain heavenly bliss.

D-esire to be keen as mustard
I-ntensifies your vigor;
O-n the twenty-fourth of July,
N-ever decrease your fervor:
E-arnestly obey the Lord,
D-espite the travel so hard;
A-llow your heart to glow, and keep keen as mustard.

This is an acrostic poem by Bernard Asuncion. The phrase appears four times; twice in the first stanza and twice in the second. The poet encourages the readers to have all the qualities and be eager to learn. The poet further adds that one must believe in God, be faithful and enthusiastic.

Example #2

Keen as Mustard: Britain’s Horrific Chemical Warfare Experiments in Australia by Bridget Goodwin

The book is about a military experiment of a chemical gas on the Australians for verifying its deadly effects. Goodwin has uncovered this inhuman experiment of the British government on the Australian soldier. Later experiments showed horrific results after the Australian soldiers underwent observation and showed signs of the heavy use of mustard gas on them. Here the phrase here is not related to the use or purpose as stated in the meaning. However, it details the use of mustard gas. It also indicates the deadly impacts of mustard gas where “keen” means fatal.

Example #3

The Wedding Gift by John Taintor Foote

“Well, I was delighted, naturally. I thought the book would get her by the time I’d read it through. But there she was, as keen as mustard before I’d got well into it. I’ll tell you what I made up my mind to do, right there. I made up my mind to let her use my rod that day. Yes, sir – my three-ounce Spinoza, and what’s more, I did it.”

The author John Taintor Foote has used this phrase in the above paragraph taken from his story “The Wedding Gift”. The protagonist is reading a book to his wife. They come to a point where the story has become interesting, and the wife stops him.  She tells him that she has to get out, and George, the husband observes his wife’s expression and enthusiasm. He uses the phrase “as keen as mustard” to describe her curiosity.

Example #4

Keen as Mustard by Graham May

This book is about the memorable adventures of Graham May. The story is about the friendship and fun adventures he had with his friends in the wild forests of New Zealand and Australia. The phrase refers to the enthusiasm of his friends when they are about to set upon another adventure. Hence, the book has been titled with this phrase to highlight the fun and excitement of the friends.

Examples in Sentences

Example #1: “He went on the expedition while he was very young. He father noticed he was As keen as mustard and encouraged him to travel.”

Example #2: “Little children are as keen as mustard, they want to know everything and ask hundreds of questions.”

Example #3: “You might miss important information if you are not as keen as mustard.”

Example #4: “If you want to be a great scientist learn to be as keen as a mustard. One day you will discover something useful.”

Example #5: “Anna was as keen as mustard to open her presents on Christmas Eve.”