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What Does "Hot to Trot" Mean?

By H.S. Anderson
Updated May 23, 2024
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“Hot to trot” is an English idiomatic expression that can mean two very different things, depending on context: it can either mean that someone is ready for action and eager to start something like a project or a job, or it can be understood as a readiness or eagerness for an intimate personal encounter, usually sexual in nature. Like most idioms, it isn’t meant to be taken literally. There isn’t usually any heat or any actual trotting involved. There is some dispute when it comes to how the expression originated. It may be related to a Scottish clan known as the Trotters who moved frequently due to warring tribes and tensions on the English border, or it might be related to the horsemanship arena, particularly in reference to horses that are warmed up enough to quicken their pace and win the race, clear the hurdle, or catch the fox. Most linguists don’t think that the sexual understanding for the term emerged until the late 20th century, though even this is a topic of some debate. In general, people who don’t intend to make a sexual reference are usually wise to use this particular idiom with caution, particularly in situations where others may not have enough context to grasp the speaker’s meaning.

Possible Scottish Origins

One theory about how this idiom came to be popular traces its roots to the Trotters, a clan of Highland Scotsmen who made their primary settlement along the English border. In ancient times the clans fought extensively over the border, and moved their settlements quite frequently both as a means of delaying the enemy and for strategy and attack advantages. The saying might be in reference to how readily the Trotters were able to switch targets and strategies; alternatively, it could also have come about in reference to the “hot trods,” or missions clansmen were said to go on to recover stolen land and property.

Relationship to Horsemanship

Another theory of origins relates to horsemanship. Horses, like people, often need to “warm up” before they’re able to run at full speed or to achieve their maximum physical potential. Trotting is one way of describing a horse’s gait; as such, a horse that is “hot to trot” is ready to speed up and do whatever it is its rider wants. Racing horses often accelerate once they meet this threshold, and hunters and jumpers are usually ready to more aggressively pursue the physical challenges related to their circuits.

Potential Sexual Connotations

In a lewder sense, a person may be described with this idiom as a way of indicating that he or she is eager to initiate, or highly covetous of, lascivious activity. Most of the times in these settings “hot” relates to a person’s passion, often in the context of initiating a sexual relationship.

Importance of Context

"Hot to trot" is a phrase that is best used among friends and relatives because insight into someone’s background is often necessary to grasp the intent behind the usage. For example, the statement, “She's really hot to trot this morning” made in reference to a woman on her way to work could imply that there’s someone at work whom she is eager to see, or it could mean that she is looking forward to starting a new project. In this case, only someone with personal knowledge about the speaker or the woman in question would understand the exact meaning. Caution should be exercised in using this phrase, because some people might easily misinterpret the intent behind it and might even construe it to be sexual harassment, particularly when used in the workplace.

References in Popular Culture

Popular culture references to this phrase are common. An American film with this name depicts a talking horse with a gift for picking stocks. The idiom has a double meaning in this title because the main character is eager to obtain money as well as to win over a girl. In addition, the hit song "Too Hot Ta Trot" by The Commodores uses a variation of the phrase with strong sexual connotations. The idiom has also been used ad a name for restaurants, bars, and jewelry designs; it’s even the name of one vintner’s blend of wine.

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