Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth

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Too many cooks spoil the soup
Too many cooks in the kitchen

Meaning of Idiom 'Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth'

This proverbial idiom means that too many people trying to do the same work or activity at the same time will either hinder progress or ruin the final result. 1,2


Often shortened to just "too many cooks." It can be used in situations in which too many people are working on one project or too many people are trying to help. At times, the words brew, stew, or pie have been substituted for broth.


"Someone needs to be in charge of the party because we can't all be in charge. Too many cooks spoil the broth."

"Right now there are too many cooks and everybody is just getting in each other's way. If this project is to get off the ground, someone needs to manage it."


This idiom is based on an old proverb which alludes to many different cooks adding ingredients to a soup (broth) so that the taste of the final soup is ruined. It was seen as early as 1575 in a slightly different form in Life of Sir Peter Carew by John Hooker1:

"There is the proverb, the more cooks the worse the potage."

1. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.
2. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
3. Speake, Jennifer. The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs. Oxford University Press, 2015.

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