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What Does "Bun in the Oven" Mean?

By Maggie Worth
Updated Feb 05, 2024
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The phrase "bun in the oven" is an English idiom referring to a woman who is pregnant. The origin and first use of the term are unclear, but it has become a common saying in many countries that use English as the primary language, particularly in the US and Great Britain. Pop culture references to this phrase are rife.

While the precise origin of this slang phrase is unknown, it appears to have been in use since the early or mid-20th century. Literary references go back as early as the 1950s. Use of this phrase to refer to being pregnant began to appear in movies, television shows and other pop culture mediums somewhat later.

Needless to say, a woman is not a kitchen appliance. The phrase "bun in the oven," however, makes a clear comparison. In this analogy, the unborn baby is the bun and the mother's womb is the oven. The father of the child is sometimes referred to as the chef, an analogy some may find offensive.

"Bun in the oven" might have originally stemmed from certain points of comparison between pregnancy and baking. Baked items, like unborn children, must be incubated for a specific length of time. Both grow during the incubation period. Whatever the basis, the phrase appears to have become an accepted and largely inoffensive way of saying that a woman is pregnant.

This particular phrase has become so popular, in fact, that creative costume websites suggest using it as a basis for Halloween costumes. Some sites suggest decorating a large cardboard box like an oven, then cutting holes in the box for the woman's arms, legs and head. A picture of a bun, loaf of bread or muffin is glued to or drawn on the "door" of the oven. Other sites offer commercially-made versions of this costume. In some cases, the sites recommend that the woman's partner wear a chef costume.

Many other slang phrases for pregnancy have come into common use. In addition to having a "bun in the oven," pregnant women may be said to have "joined the pudding club," to be "in the family way," or to be "on stork watch." Modifications of the word "pregnant" include "preggers," "preggo" and "pg." Gentler terms include being "with child" or "expecting." Other terms include "knocked up" and, in the case of an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy, "in a fix" or "in trouble."

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Discussion Comments

By anon353325 — On Oct 29, 2013

I just discovered a reference in a 12th-century Troyes manuscript (some student lecture notes from one of Peter Comestor's Paris classrooms) that refers to Christ's virgin birth as being "in clibano uteri virginalis"...which is apparently a Latin idiom which was understandable to college students in the 12th century. And it means "in the oven of her virginal womb." It's the first instance of this idiom I've ever come across.

By manykitties2 — On Nov 27, 2011

Does anyone have any good ideas for how to plan a bun in the oven baby shower?

My best friend is expecting her first child and we already made up some really adorable bun in the oven baby shower invitations and would like to make sure we make everything match. I know I can my friend into a bun in the oven shirt, as she's pretty keen on making the event fun and memorable.

We have found some bun in the oven baby shower favors, but are a bit stuck on finding some bun in the oven shower games. Does anyone have an idea of what we could do to make her baby shower extra special?

By Sara007 — On Nov 26, 2011

When I was pregnant with my first child I got a ton of bun in the oven gifts. You would be surprised what that phrase has made its way onto. I got a cute bun in the oven t-shirt from my sister and someone even found a bun in the oven candle, shaped like a pregnant woman!

We actually ended up going with a bun in the oven party them for my baby shower as it was such a running joke in my family by the time the event rolled around. There are all kinds of great bun in the over favors you can buy, such as things like treats, stationary, and actually, just about anything else you can imagine.

By lighth0se33 — On Nov 25, 2011

It could be said that a baby growing is like yeast rising. A big difference is that you only get to watch it through a sonogram, whereas you can watch bread the whole time it cooks.

However, “bun in the oven” is one of those phrases that rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it's because I don't cook and I hate the assumption that all females do. The expression brings to mind the image of a woman slaving over a vat of yeast and carefully watching her bun to make sure it doesn't burn.

“Preggers” and “preggo” don't bother me. It's just this one phrase that disgusts me somehow. Does anyone else feel this way?

By StarJo — On Nov 25, 2011

My cousin was always self-conscious about her weight, so when she became pregnant, she wanted everyone to know that she wasn't just becoming fat. She got a couple of t-shirts that she wore whenever she went out for groceries, and they told the world of her condition.

One shirt had the words “I've got a...” followed by the image of a bun inside of an oven. It was made to fit snugly and stretch, so it showed that the excess weight was only in her pregnant belly.

The other t-shirt had a cartoon image of a stork dropping a bundle into a pair of open hands that were extended across the belly. I thought this one was particularly cute. It got the point across without using any words at all.

By Oceana — On Nov 24, 2011

I just don't see the need for so many phrases to describe being pregnant. Why can't we just say it outright?

I know that a long time ago, people were more reserved. However, can you think of anyone today who would be offended by the simple, direct word “pregnant?” I surely can't. It's a medical term.

Many younger kids today probably haven't even heard of having a “bun in the oven.” Times have changed, and I really wish that we could be more direct in our language sometimes.

I personally don't want to offend anyone, and I would never use language publicly that could be considered vulgar. I have never been gasped at or chastised for using the word “pregnant,” though.

By shell4life — On Nov 23, 2011

@turquoise – I think putting your husband's photo on the bun would be funny! It would also make it easier to figure out what your costume is.

I think that if I saw a woman in a regular oven costume with a bun inside it, I would simply think that she came as a stove. Even having her husband at her side as a chef would not cause me to think of the term “bun in the oven.”

If you personalize it with his photo, that would be better. If you want to go even further with it and make it more descriptive, you could add a pacifier in its mouth and a bonnet on its head! I think that would be hilarious!

By turquoise — On Nov 23, 2011

A bun in the oven Halloween costume sounds like a great idea! I'm actually five months pregnant and if I made a bun in the oven costume for Halloween, it would be so funny!

It sounds so easy to make too. I already have a large box like that at home that I can make to look like an oven.

And what if I printed out a bun image and then put my husband's face on the bun? Like, my bun taking after my husband? Would that be creepy or funny?

By candyquilt — On Nov 23, 2011

I'm not sure about how this phrase originated either. But I have a theory that back in the day, it was not appropriate for people to announce that they're pregnant, especially if they are not married.

I can imagine that initially, this phrase was used to talk about a pregnancy without everyone knowing about it. Of course, it's no secret today if someone said that they have a bun in the oven. But if we were living in a time period where this phrase was just made up, you could easily talk about your bun in the oven without people having a clue as to what you're saying.

By bear78 — On Nov 22, 2011

I don't find this phrase offensive at all. I think "knocked up" is way more offensive than "bun in the oven" which I think is a cute way of saying that someone is pregnant.

My friends use slang phrases like "knocked up" and "preggo" all the time and I don't like that at all. I think these have a negative connotation to them, as it if the pregnancy is an accomplishment of the male and a sad situation for the female.

I'd rather hear people say "bun in the oven" than any of these other phrases and names.

By oasis11 — On Nov 22, 2011

I think that this expression is so funny if you think about it. It really must be confusing for someone that is not familiar with English to understand the meaning of the phrase because usually people that learn English as a second language often learn the language literally and this type of phrase can really be confusing.

I guess if the phrase was used in a maternity store or in conjunction with a baby shower it might be easier to understand the meaning of the phrase. The only time I hear the phrase is when I am watching a funny program on television. I normally use the term “Expecting” when describing a pregnant woman.

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