Green’s Dictionary of Slang

stew n.1

1. (also stue) a mess, a troublesome situation, a state of alarm; often as in a stew.

[UK] ‘Cruel Mother in Law’ in Amorous Miller’s Garland 7: But now she’s really grown so warm, / Her neighbours fear she do them harm; / For she is put in such a Stue, / That she doth nought but Spit and Spue.
[UK]‘Jeremy Swell, Gent.’ Tailors’ Revolt 21: It can’t, it can’t be true – / If ’tis, why I am – in a precious stew.
[UK]J. Poole Hamlet Travestie II iii: Look at my mother; she seems in a stew, Sir.
[Ire]‘A Real Paddy’ Real Life in Ireland 223: He got himself into a precious stew – from that into a pickle.
[US]S. Smith Major Downing (1834) 154: Our party’s got into a dreadful kind of a stew.
[UK] ‘Love in the City’ in Bentley’s Misc. June 586: Our master’s dish’d, and we are in a stew.
[US]Wkly Rake (NY) 27 Aug. n.p.: the rake wants to knowWhy deaf George was in a stew when he found we knew all about his catching fleas on Sarah’s chemise .
[Ind]Bellew Memoirs of a Griffin II 7: To use a coarse, but expressive phrase, I was in a ‘devil of stew’.
[UK]G.W.M. Reynolds Mysteries of London II (2nd series) 276: Why, you have been in a fidget and a stew all day.
[UK]‘Cuthbert Bede’ Adventures of Mr Verdant Green (1982) III 284: I say, old feller [...] you look rather in a stew!
[UK] ‘Great Liberal Majority of 110’ in C. Hindley Curiosities of Street Lit. (1871) 110: It’s concerning of the poor Tories / Who are in a precious stew.
[US]H.B. Stowe Sam Lawson’s Oldtown Fireside Stories (1881) 85: It’s all fuss, fuss, and stew, stew.
[Aus]Hamilton Spectator (Vic.) 7 Jan. 1/7: A young gentleman gets into ‘little difficulties,’ and then he is in a ‘jolly scrape,’ or ‘mess,’ or ‘stew’.
[US]E. Field ‘Joseph Wilson’ Little Bk of Trib. Verse (1901) 205: General in an awful stew.
Kipling ‘His Brother’s Keeper’ in Civil & Military Gaz. 7 Apr. (1909) 122: ‘I was in a stew lest the man should cut his throat with one of the breakfast knives’.
[UK]E.W. Hornung Amateur Cracksman (1992) 70: You don’t know what a stew I’ve been in.
[Aus] ‘Bold Jack Donahoo’ in ‘Banjo’ Paterson Old Bush Songs 31: But when they came to Sydney gaol, he left them in a stew.
[UK]A.S.G. Lee letter in No Parachute (1968) 24 May 18: It put me in an awful stew to get another roasting.
[UK](con. 1835–40) P. Herring Bold Bendigo 269: Fine stew we’re in. Here’s a nice kettle of fish.
[US](con. 1920s) Dos Passos Big Money in USA (1966) 942: Frank and Agnes were in a great stew when she got home.
[UK]J. Maclaren-Ross ‘Gas’ in Bitten by the Tarantula (2005) 163: He was in a proper stew.
[UK]P. Larkin letter 29 Apr. in Thwaite Sel. Letters (1992) 226: I had got into some sort of stew: however, I am out of the stew, more or less, now.
[US](con. WWII) T. Sanchez Hollywoodland (1981) 104: Lucky you was there [...] or the little Beaner would still be in the stew.

2. (US Und.) nitroglycerine [var. on soup n. (3)].

[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 210/1: Stew. Crude nitroglycerine, or picric, made by stewing sticks of dynamite, freeing the sawdust and clay base of the explosive, after which the soup, or picric extract, is skimmed and placed in vials.

3. (Aus. prison) a prearranged fight.

[Aus]Tupper & Wortley Aus. Prison Sl. Gloss. [Internet] Stew. A prearranged fight.