pour oil on troubled waters

Idioms & Phrases

pour oil on troubled waters

Soothe or calm down something or someone, as in The twins are quarreling so I'd best go pour oil on troubled waters. This term alludes to an ancient practice of pouring oil on ocean waves to calm their turbulence, which was mentioned in the eighth century. [Mid-1800s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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