Skip to Content


A “stemwinder” is a rousing political speech that galvanizes a crowd to take action.

It’s a speech that is able to capture the attention and enthusiasm of the audience, and that is able to persuade and motivate them to support the speaker’s cause or candidate.

Origin of “stemwinder”

The term is thought to have originated in the 19th century, when clocks were commonly wound using a long key or “stem.”

More on the history from Slate:

The term dates back to the middle of the 19th century, when the stem-winding watch came into vogue. The newfangled timepiece was a vast improvement over its predecessor, the key-wound watch, because the mechanism for setting it was a stem actually attached to the watch, rather than a key that was easily and frequently misplaced.

This technological advance was so widely appreciated that, by the end of the 1800s, the term stemwinder had taken on the figurative meaning of ‘excellent’ or ‘outstanding,’ or, as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, “a person or thing that is first rate.”

The term “stemwinder” was eventually applied to political speeches that were particularly effective at mobilizing and inspiring audiences.

A stemwinder is often characterized by its ability to connect with the audience on an emotional level and to inspire them to action.

It may include powerful storytelling, inspiring rhetoric, and stirring appeals to the audience’s values and beliefs. It may also include humor, drama, and other elements that are designed to engage and captivate the audience.

The ability to deliver a stemwinder is seen as an important skill for politicians and political leaders.

However, a concession speech would rarely qualify as a stemwinder.

Use of “Stemwinder” in a sentence

  • The candidate’s stemwinder speech was able to rally the crowd and generate excitement for her campaign.
  • The stemwinder was a powerful blend of storytelling, humor, and inspiring rhetoric, and it left the audience feeling motivated and energized.
  • The ability to deliver a stemwinder is an important skill for politicians, as it can help to build support and enthusiasm for their cause or candidate.