If I had two choices, either to "Eat something" or "Stay/Keep hungry", when food is offered to me when I was in a state of hunger.

I want the phrase to be in the same format as "Eat something", I mean two words and in an order(verb) form.

I found out that "Stay hungry" is an idiom which means:

To remain determined, competitive, motivated, and active in one's hopes, ambitions, or goals; to keep oneself from becoming complacent or self-satisfied with less than one might potentially achieve.

Also, I don't find that "Keep hungry" makes a good fit.

So, what should I say?

  • 1
    To me "keep" implies intention, or at least volition: that you want to carry on being hungry. That seems an odd thing to say, but from your paraphrase that maybe what you mean. (I find it odd that I often here weather forecasters on the radio say that we are going to "keep that rain into the evening", as though we had any wish or control.).
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 10, 2019 at 11:39
  • 1
    As sung towards the end of this song, "stay hungry" is a natural option :) Feb 10, 2019 at 16:42
  • @LukeSawczak - There wasn't a need for saying it six times, for me to understand it means the phrase literally when it is related to food. Thanks for the song, by the way. Feb 10, 2019 at 18:05
  • 1
    @TasneemZh Fair enough. I admit it was a compulsive share owed solely to the fact that the song came into my head when I read the question :) Feb 10, 2019 at 18:09
  • 1
    @LukeSawczak So you're referring to songs but didn't mention this one? :D
    – lennyklb
    Feb 11, 2019 at 10:33

5 Answers 5


I suppose your "idiomatic" meaning of stay hungry comes from this page: https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/hungry. I think this is not really an idiom but rather a logical construction from one of the alternative meanings of hungry listed at the bottom of the same page: "ambitious." In other words, in order to tell someone not to lose their sense of ambition, one could say "stay ambitious" or "stay hungry."

I would further consider this meaning of "hungry" to be a metaphor, that is, it represents a metaphorical hunger for success rather than a hunger for food.

In fact, just about any such phrase using the word "hungry" could have the same metaphorical meaning: in a context where "stay hungry" means "stay ambitious," telling a person to "remain hungry" or "keep yourself hungry" would have the same meaning.

In the context where the alternative is to eat food, however, you could use any of the following phrases to tell someone to remain in a state of hunger:

  • stay hungry.
  • remain hungry.
  • be hungry.

The phrase keep hungry does not ring true to my ear. The word keep has various idiomatic uses, such as "keep calm", that have the form keep + (adjective), but this does not seem to be one of them.

The phrase go hungry is another idiom. It has a connotation of involuntary hunger: from https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/go-hungry,

If people go hungry, they do not have enough food to eat.

This does not seem to apply when food is available but one chooses not to eat it. The definition of the phrase varies from source to source, however: according to https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/go%20hungry, going hungry is a chronic condition, but https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/go+hungry defines it as missing a single meal.

On the other hand, if the circumstances are that food has been set out to be eaten, but it will be taken away soon, I would understand the phrase

eat something or go hungry

to mean if you do not eat food now, while it is available, you will suffer from not having enough food to eat in the near future.

  • Thanks a lot for such a great answer. I would agree on "go hungry" phrase with its meaning to the situation on your last example, and it would fit if there was someone who was ordering that person, but no, it is something different. Feb 10, 2019 at 15:03
  • 1
    Thanks, the last part was just exploring the meaning of "go hungry" to see where it might apply. The main intent of the answer is to argue that "remain hungry" and "stay hungry" are both suitable phrases for your particular usage.
    – David K
    Feb 10, 2019 at 15:12
  • I really don't like taking the selection of the best answer, but I have to admit, you deserve it truly and fairly. Welcome and thanks again. I agree with all the points you've mentioned including the link. Feb 10, 2019 at 18:40

Eat something or stay hungry

is the natural way to utter the thought desired in the context specified.

Yes, there is an idiom that "Stay hungry" means "remain determined," etc., but that idiom has not replaced the primary meaning of the word "hungry," which is to "be conscious of not having eaten enough recently." No native speaker would interpret the words above as

Eat some food or else continue being so determined.

The word "eat" would indicate unambiguously that the word "hungry" is to be interpreted in its literal sense rather than a figurative sense.

  • 1
    I think in your second example you want "continue" rather than "stop". Aside from that detail, it's an excellent example.
    – David K
    Feb 10, 2019 at 14:33
  • 1
    You are correct. Thank you. I shall correct my answer. Feb 10, 2019 at 18:53

Another option would be remain: "eat something or remain hungry."


I'm not a native speaker, but I'd rather use "stay hungry". I think the proper usage of keep might be when you leave something in a state, so technically (I guess) you can say like "keep myself hungry", but I've never seen any usage that uses the verb keep to leave the speaker itself in a state, rather leave another object in it.

  • 2
    My girlfriend might visit today, so I'll keep myself ready. My job involves hard physical work, so I have to keep myself fit. I'll keep myself available on Monday morning for you. Feb 10, 2019 at 10:09
  • 2
    To keep myself sane, I avoid reading tabloid newspapers. To keep myself holy, I pray every hour. To keep myself happy, I whistle a merry tune. Etc. Feb 10, 2019 at 10:22
  • 1
    To my (British English) ears "leave something in a state" means "cease interacting with something, so it remains in its current state" not "actively maintain something in its current state" which is what your examples "keep myself fit", "keep myself available" etc, mean.
    – alephzero
    Feb 10, 2019 at 13:17

As a native English speaker, the phrase that comes to mind is "go hungry":

"If you refuse to eat anything, you'll go hungry."

  • 1
    I 100% agree that "go hungry" is a well accepted idiom, but it does not, in my opinion, quite fit the situation contemplated by the question. The situation envisaged yjere is that the person addressed already is hungry. The implication that I get from "go hungry" is "become hungry." Feb 10, 2019 at 14:04
  • 1
    @JeffMorrow On the contrary, I think it is often the case that people who are said to "go hungry" are hungry all the time. For example, see merriam-webster.com/dictionary/go%20hungry
    – David K
    Feb 10, 2019 at 14:31
  • @DavidK - I don't mean suffering hunger forever or all the time, it is just for a temporary event where the character (or me for simplicity) didn't eat anything that day, and at that time she (the character again) had the choice to break that fast or to remain hunger until the next chance/meal. Feb 10, 2019 at 14:55
  • 1
    Thank you very much for suggesting that phrase, Nathan. But I knew it, and I was completey convinced that it is not a good fit for my case. Feb 10, 2019 at 14:57
  • 2
    For yet another definition of "go hungry", try idioms.thefreedictionary.com/go+hungry -- missing a single meal. Note that in the example usage given on that page, "The kids were late for dinner so they had to go hungry," it seems reasonable to assume the kids were already hungry at dinnertime and continued being hungry.
    – David K
    Feb 10, 2019 at 15:01

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .