Can gravy, which has been ladled, be said to be atop potatoes?

I would say it can't, but I'd like to see what other speakers have to say.

I understand to be atop something to occupy a position there, as a house atop a hill, or a hat atop a head. Strictly speaking, gravy cannot be positioned on potatoes (unless the potatoes are mashed and a crater is formed at the top).

  • 1
    Yeah, for me you've understood it perfectly. Atop is the position something must occupy, and since gravy is a liquid, it doesn't stay atop the potatoes no matter how hard you try.
    – JMB
    Dec 25, 2014 at 15:47
  • 4
    If the gravy has been ladled on top of your potatoes it may run down the sides, but the potatoes are still underneath the gravy and the gravy is on top of the potatoes even if not all at the top. Synchronically and diachronically, atop = 'on top of'; I see no problem, and neither do some 278 menus, reviewers and bloggers found by Google. Dec 25, 2014 at 15:59
  • 1
    It could be atop mashed potatoes, perhaps? Dec 25, 2014 at 16:07
  • You could use atop when giving guidance or direction: Please put some gravy atop my potatoes. The fact that most of the gravy is destined to run onto the plate is immaterial. That said, I think on top of might work better than atop of when talking about gravy.
    – J.R.
    Dec 25, 2014 at 20:12
  • Yes, @StoneyB, but compare: "cooked to your likeness" :-) : google.com/…
    – TimR
    Dec 26, 2014 at 15:48

2 Answers 2


Yes, you can put gravy on top of (atop) potatoes; even if the gravy runs off, some of it will still be over the potatoes (whatever soaked in).


Perhaps in an exact scientific approach, this is debatable, but for English language purposes, gravy 'atop' potatoes should make sense.

However, as a note, to actually say this in English Spoken Language would not strictly make sense, it is only really something you understand.

You must log in to answer this question.

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