I found this sentence in a novel set in the 20s of the 20th Century, in England. A mother offers to her daughter her first taste of alcohol. The girl is surprised because it warms her from the inside. Here's the dialogue:

The sweet warmth filled my mouth and slid into my stomach. I laughed. ‘It’s heating me from the inside.’ ‘Warming your collywobbles,’ she laughed back.

What does 'warming your collywobbles' mean in this context? In the dictionary I found the following definition of 'collywobbles':

  1. an upset stomach
  2. acute diarrhoea
  3. an intense feeling of nervousness

Is she saying to her daughter that she'll soon be sick? Or she'll soon feel strange?

  • 1
    Michael Harvey's already answered with the meaning of the word, but honestly a lot of people wouldn't know that either, it's a fairly regional thing. But I'd encourage you to think, does it sound like she's going to be sick? Or does it seem like they're both happy? If she'd said "warming your flibberblippers" (I just made that up, don't look it up!) then how would the scene feel, with the context you get from the words you do know? Commented Dec 29, 2020 at 14:46
  • This is a happy scene, so I think the correct meaning is the one suggested by Michael Harvey. It was a bit strange because the definition of collywobbles seemed negative (a bad sensation in the stomach, nervousness), so I wasn't sure of the meaning.
    – Cicc
    Commented Dec 29, 2020 at 14:52
  • 1
    Yeah! I think it's intended in the sense of calming her stomach, so it's not just warming her (as the daughter says), it's actually making her feel better (the mother believes). It could just be meant in the sense of "alcohol makes you feel better if you're ever feeling sick or worried", just as a general observation. Or the mother might have given her daughter the alcohol because she was feeling bad, as a tonic. But yeah it's an unusual word, but hopefully you understood the general feeling! Commented Dec 29, 2020 at 15:04

1 Answer 1


Since 'collywobbles' are, when felt, located in the stomach, the expression clearly means that the drink is providing a warm sensation in the child's stomach area.

Note that 'warming the cockles of your heart', is an old UK way of saying 'providing a warm, comforting interior feeling', usually intended figuratively (i.e. about an emotion), but I daresay a glass of brandy could be said to do that.

  • 2
    Note that this is meant to be "childish speech" and is not expected to be "correct"
    – James K
    Commented Dec 29, 2020 at 12:05

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