Put a damper on


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Put a damper on'?

Make dishearted, especially to diminish interest in something that was previously exciting.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Put a damper on'?

‘Putting a damper on’ something would seem to have a clear relation with damping down a fire, that is, putting water on it to dowse it. A damper isn’t a material object but just ‘something that depresses the spirits. The word is used in that way in Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa; or the history of a young lady, 1747–48

“I very early discharged shame, that cold water damper to an enterprising spirit.”

It was also the name of a snack taken to diminish the appetite, as in Maria Edgewiorth’s Popular Tales, 1804:

“In the kitchen, taking his snack by way of a damper.”

The figurative use of the phrase doesn’t appear in print until the mid-19th century. This is from J. F. Murray’s World of London, 1843:

“If the clerk of the weather office is determined to put a damper on the festivities.”

See also, put the mockers on.

Trend of put a damper on in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.