pour oil on troubled waters


pour oil on troubled waters


  • try to calm, soothe or placate a problematic situation
  • do or say something to stop an argument
  • settle, pacify or diffuse a disagreement or dispute

Example Sentences

  1. She’s such a calm person; last week, the whole office was in uproar until she stepped in and poured oil on troubled waters.
  2. My young sons are always fighting each other. I’m constantly pulling them apart and pouring oil on troubled waters.
  3. Martha and Joe have such a volatile relationship. One of us usually has to pour oil on troubled waters and get them to apologise to each other. It’s exhausting.
  4. Mathew intends to pour oil on troubled waters by reaching out to his grandson and his wife in California.
  5. Rather than pour oil on troubled waters, the administration’s guidance and public statements seem to have poured an energy drink over an already intense debate.
  6. She will try to settle disputes, pour oil on troubled waters by talking to her husband over the phone.


It has been known since ancient times that oil can calm agitated water. Roman scholar and statesman Pliny, the Elder says in The Natural History (77AD) ‘Everything is soothed by oil’ (Translated from Latin in 1855).

In 1773, US statesman Benjamin Franklyn wrote to a British doctor, explaining that he had conducted an experiment after seeing first-hand – “the cooks emptying their greasy water through the scuppers.”

This had the effect of smoothing the wake of the ships in the fleet.

“I resolved to make some experiment of the effect of oil on water.”    

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