from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A stem-winding watch.
  • n. A rousing oration, especially a political one.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A watch that is wound up by turning a small knob (at the stem)
  • n. A rousing speech, especially by a politician
  • n. Someone who gives such speeches, a great orator.
  • n. An boring, interminable speech.
  • n. Top-notch, first-rate.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A stem-winding watch.
  • n. Anything of superior quality, as was attributed to the stem-winding watch; -- esp. used to describe a stirring speech, as in the phrase “a stem-winder of a speech” or “delivered a stem-winder”.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A watch which is wound up or regulated by means of a contrivance connected with the stem, and not by a key.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a watch that is wound by turning a knob at the stem


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

US, mid-late 19th century, originally referring to then-recent stem-wind watches (invented in 1840s, commercialized initially 1850s by Patek Philippe & Co.). These were expensive, top-notch watches, hence generalized (1892) to “top-notch”, particularly applied to speeches, or to the orator in question. Non-speech senses later fell out of use. Nuance of “rousing” speech possibly by analogy with watch being wound up ("tighten by winding, excite, rouse").


  • Can hardly await Pres Obama's next bold move - Perhaps another stem-winder?

    Foundation continues to crumble (Jack Bog's Blog)

  • Both showed up; Gray delivered opening remarks, and Fenty handled the stem-winder.

    DeMorning DeBonis: June 8, 2010

  • Big awards, thankfully, don't always go to big ensembles, but there's a long way to go before a couple of perfect minutes of lapidary precision and ineffable depth can hope to compete on equal terms with a Wagnerian stem-winder. posted by Matthew @ 10: 00 PM

    Not long for this world

  • And any -- any thoughts that people had that he would be too frail to be able to give his typical stem-winder of a speech were put to rest.

    CNN Transcript Aug 26, 2009

  • He used to be was billed higher than a president or president-elect because he just knew he'd give a stem-winder (ph).

    CNN Transcript Aug 26, 2009

  • Yet the phrase "gun control" is about as welcome at party convocations as a stem-winder from Karl Rove.

    Francis Wilkinson: Why Giuliani Gets Away With It

  • The Boston Globe reports that "[w] hen it became apparent that Clinton was not going to make the customary acknowledgment of Obama's victory in her speech, Obama began his own address before she finished, in effect grabbing the national television spotlight from her and cutting her off midstride" - and he went on to give a 45-minute stem-winder.

    A Second Sweep For Obama, McCain

  • Wolfe's op-ed stem-winder was widely seen as decisive in sending the Foster scheme to defeat last month, but the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has rejected so much new construction within the Upper East Side Historic District of late, the outcome of the hearing was already a foregone conclusion.

    Martin Filler: Uncle Tom's Crabbin'

  • But it was when Schweitzer talked about our breaking our "addiction to foreign oil" that his speech turned into a stem-winder.

    Paul Hogarth: Schweitzer Steals the Show; Hillary Calls for Unity

  • The big hit from last night, however, was Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer - who gave a passionate stem-winder about the energy crisis that literally brought delegates to their feet.

    Paul Hogarth: Schweitzer Steals the Show; Hillary Calls for Unity


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