Powerhouse: chiefly US : someone or something that is full of a particular thing


(Merriam Webster Learner's Dictionary)

According to this thread growth-powerhouse -- meaning?

As Adam has indicated in his comment, powerhouse is often used metaphorically to indicate something which is known to be strong or powerful in some respect.

Take this example from Merriam Webster Learner's Dictionary

He is a powerhouse of ideas.

I find this sentence still hard to understand. Does it mean he can produce a lot of ideas (a source of ideas)? Or does it mean he is a source of inspiration (he inspires others to have ideas)?

  • According to Merriam Webster: Someone or something that's full of a particular thing. Seaweed is a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals. He is a powerhouse of ideas.
    – Khan
    Jul 27, 2019 at 16:52

3 Answers 3


A power-house originally meant a building containg a steam-engine (or possibly a water-wheel) i.e. a building that 'is a source of power', so it is most likely that the author means that the person 'is a source of' ideas rather than a source of inspiration, but there is not that much difference in the two meanings, and either is plausible.

  • I'd say it's slightly stronger than, implying that he produces a lot of ideas, and/or produces them rapidly, and/or produces strong/good/powerful ideas.
    – gidds
    Jul 27, 2019 at 8:56

Literally, powerhouse is an electrical generating station or plant.

The word is also used figuratively in some senses. Here in the sentence presented, it means a lot of/full of. If someone is a powerhouse of ideas, it means they have a lot of/are full of ideas.


"Powerhouse", like any other metaphor, has a figurative meaning implied by the literal meaning; however, in the case where there are several possible meanings you have to look at how it's most commonly used. Some examples pulled from the internet:

  • Damon had appeared in eleven other films before winning his first Oscar, but it was his role as a heroin addict veteran in 1996's Courage Under Fire that won him the respect and admiration of many powerhouse actors.

  • Each process does leech some nutrients, but the beet is a veritable nutritional powerhouse to begin with, so a certain degree of deterioration doesn't negate the vegetable's positive properties.

  • From his haunting acoustic material as heard on the albums Harvest and Harvest Moon to his garage rock powerhouse band Crazy Horse, Neil Young has been following his own inspired musical compass for the better part of four decades.

From these (and many others) we should assume that "powerhouse" refers to something "full of power", or, depending on the context, significance, usefulness, influence, and other applications of power.

It does not seem to be used to mean something that "produces power", as in a "power plant", so it's unlikely your sentence implies he is a "source of ideas" as in someone who inspires ideas in other people.

  • 1
    Andrew, could you please explain what you mean by "source of ideas" in "it's unlikely your sentence implies he is a 'source of ideas'."? Jul 26, 2019 at 21:34
  • It does not seem to be used to mean something that "produces power"
    – Andrew
    Jul 27, 2019 at 5:07

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