Rock the Boat

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Meaning of Idiom 'Rock the Boat'

To rock the boat is to do something which causes trouble or upsets a stable or desirable situation. 1,2,3


"My supervisor is very abusive but I just got a big raise and I don't want to rock the boat."

"I really don't want to rock the boat, but I think someone should say something about Rob's behavior."


The idiom alludes to the fact that rocking a small boat by shifting one's weight from side to side or by standing up, etc. is likely to cause the boat to capsize. Thus, a stable boat can be upset if it is rocked. The phrase has been used figuratively since the early 1900's. 1

1. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
2. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.
3. Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995

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