What Does Bottle Something Up Mean?

Bottle Something Up Meaning

Definition: To hold back, to conceal, or to refrain from taking action.

To bottle something up literally involves putting that thing in a bottle and capping the bottle so that whatever is inside cannot escape.

In figurative speech, to bottle something up means to conceal or hold it in as if it has been put into a bottle and cannot escape.

Most of the time, people use this phrase in reference to bottling up emotions or concealing those emotions.

Origin of Bottle Something Up

meaning of bottle upAs with many phrases that include the word bottle, this phrase comes from England. While it may have come directly from a discussion of bottling or canning goods, there is another theory for its origin.

In England, Cockney slang involves using rhymes in place of the words meant. Commonly, “bottle and glass” has been slang to refer to “ass,” or someone’s rear end. Thus, “bottle it up” could have originally meant to hold in your emotions so that they do not come out like a bowel movement.

Examples of Bottle Something Up

The most common use of this phrase is to bottle up emotions. A therapist might advise you to stop bottling up your sadness and talk about it. A lover may say, “We cannot bottle up our problems and hope they go away.”

idiom bottle somethingIn both of these cases, the speakers are talking about sharing and talking about feelings rather than hiding them.

Someone might also say,

  • I try to bottle up everything I am feeling, but it finds a way to burst out eventually.

In this example, someone tries to keep his emotion to himself, but, eventually, he needs to tell someone.

In addition to emotions, this phrase can describe anything that people want to conceal from others. You might try to bottle up a secret so that no one ever finds out that information. Politicians may attempt to bottle up a mistake they made so that the press does not write about it.

More Examples

  • The union-dominated Assembly actually passed the bill, 137-1, while the GOP-controlled Senate helped bottle it up.  –New York Post
  • If kids don’t feel they are able to talk about their worries, they might bottle it up and act out their feelings later. –Houston Chronicle


If something is bottled up, it is concealed or hidden away from others.