Goads on NYT: Word’s Meaning, Usage, and Crossword Clues

The unassuming word “goad” harbors a rich tapestry of meanings and applications, extending far beyond its literal definition of a pointed stick used to drive animals. Its versatility extends to the realm of human behavior, where it captures the act of motivating or inciting someone to action. In the world of crosswords, “goad” has become a familiar clue, challenging solvers to uncover its hidden significance.

The Etymology and Literal Meaning of Goad

The word “goad” traces its roots back to the Old English “gād,” meaning “a point or spike.” Its literal definition refers to a sharp instrument, typically a pointed stick or rod, used to prod or urge animals forward. This physical application aptly conveys the sense of stimulating or motivating something to move or act.

Goad in Figurative Speech: Urging and Provocation

Beyond its literal usage, “goad” finds a prominent place in figurative language. In this context, it assumes the sense of inciting, provoking, or urging someone to action or behavior. This figurative usage often carries a negative connotation, implying that the provocation is unwelcome or even harmful.

For instance, one might say that a politician’s inflammatory rhetoric “goaded” the crowd into violence. Here, “goad” implies an instigation of action through forceful or provocative means. Similarly, a teacher might express concern that a student’s laziness is being “goaded” by distractions in the classroom. In this case, “goad” suggests an external stimulus that is negatively influencing the student’s behavior.

Goad as a Synonym for Motivation

In certain contexts, “goad” can also carry a more neutral or even positive connotation, akin to “motivate” or “encourage.” For example, a coach might use positive reinforcement to “goad” an athlete to achieve their full potential. Here, “goad” implies a constructive form of motivation, urging someone to reach their peak performance.

Goad in Crossword Clues: A Test of Vocabulary and Lateral Thinking

The word “goad” has become a familiar fixture in crossword puzzles, often appearing as a clue that requires both a strong vocabulary and a touch of lateral thinking. Solvers must delve beyond the literal meaning of “goad” to consider its figurative applications and the context of the clue.

For instance, a clue might read “To urge on.” While the literal answer might be “push,” the figurative answer could be “goad.” Similarly, a clue like “A prod to action” could yield “goad” as the solution.

Examples of Goad in Usage

To further illustrate the word’s versatility, consider these examples of “goad” in usage:

  • The taunts of the bullies goaded him into a fight.
  • The harsh conditions of the workplace goaded the workers to strike.
  • The politician’s fiery speech goaded the crowd into a frenzy.
  • The teacher’s gentle encouragement goaded the student to persevere.
  • The athlete’s determination to succeed was goaded by his past failures.

Conclusion: A Word of Many Faces

“Goad” emerges as a word of multifaceted meaning, encompassing both literal and figurative applications. Its ability to capture the act of urging, provoking, or motivating makes it a valuable addition to our vocabulary. Whether prodding an animal forward or inciting someone to action, “goad” serves as a potent linguistic tool.


Q: What is the difference between “goad” and “motivate”?

A: While both words involve urging someone to action, “goad” often carries a negative connotation, implying provocation or even coercion. “Motivate,” on the other hand, typically suggests a more positive and constructive form of encouragement.

Q: How can I use “goad” effectively in my writing?

A: Use “goad” judiciously to convey the precise nuance you intend. Consider whether you want to emphasize the negative aspect of provocation or the positive aspect of motivation.

Q: What are some synonyms for “goad”?

A: Synonyms for “goad” include provoke, incite, urge, spur, and drive.

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