What Does Bolster Something Up Mean?

Bolster Something Up Meaning

Definition: To give added support to something.

When something is in need of reinforcement, usually something old in need of repair, people say it needs to be bolstered up. Oftentimes, something that originally was strong, but has since weakened with age or use, may need to be strengthened.

When someone is in need of emotional or spiritual encouragement, people say he or she needs to be bolstered up. You can bolster someone up by giving him or her the emotional support to make it through a vulnerable position.

Origin of Bolster Something Up

Bolster is a mid-15th-century-word meaning prop up, made to bulge. It originally referred to a woman’s breast, but, from about 1500 onward, it took on the figurative meaning of to support with a bolster.

meaning of bolster upWe don’t see early literary examples until the 1800s, with Heman White Chaplin writing in By the Sea:

  • She lay on her back, bolstered up.

In 1926, Elbert Hubbard wrote in a more figurative way:

  • Lies once begun, pile up; and lies require lies to bolster them.

Examples of Bolster Something Up

In the modern day, people use bolster something up to talk about adding needed support.

bolstering something upThis support can be for something inanimate,

  • The carpenter bolstered the falling shelf up with an added beam.

The support can also be for a living person,

  • After the surgery, her confidence was bolstered from positive notes and wishes from friends.

More Examples

  • I always make a simple chicken gravy a few days before, bolstered up with mushrooms, thyme, and sherry, and then blended smooth. –The Guardian
  • “The entire department needs to be bolstered up with additional staff,” he said. “I think they’ve been overstretched.” –CT Post


The phrase to bolster something up is to make it stronger after it’s been weakened from its original state.