What Does Bring To A Boil Mean?

Bringing to a Boil Meaning

Definition: To heat a liquid until it begins to bubble and steam; to anger someone.

In its most basic and literal meaning, bring to a boil means to apply heat to a liquid until it reaches boiling temperature and begins to evaporate. A boil does not happen instantaneously; the process of heating the water is called bringing it to the point. This happens on a stove, on a fire, in the microwave, etc.

Alternatively, in a more metaphorical sense, bring to a boil can mean to cause someone to become very angry. Like water boiling, the anger first simmers, then builds, and finally explodes.

Origin of Bring To A Boil

meaning of bring something to a boilBoil comes from the Old French word bolir, which means to boil, bubble up, ferment. By the early 19th century, there are recorded examples of the phrase, including in this Rutland Herald from 1841,

  • Moderate heat is favorable to putrefaction; hence, meat put into cold water and brought slowly to boil, becomes injured, and if considerable time is occupied in bringing it to boil, it will become tainted.

The secondary meaning has to do with the idea that your blood boils when you are mad; your face gets heated, and blood rushes to the surface. The idea of boiling to mean agitating the feelings comes from the mid-1600s.

There is an example of blood boiling in Thomas Otway’s Alcibiades from 1675,

  • I am impatient, and my blood boyls high.

Examples of Bring To A Boil

bring to a simmer definitionIn the modern day, bring to a boil is common in recipe,

  • Bring the water to a boil, and then add the rice.

It is common when talking about cooking in general.

  • She brought the water to a boil before putting the potatoes in.

It is also an idiomatic expression, though not terribly common, for angering someone.

For example,

  • The mother was brought to a boil by her two children who didn’t listen to a word she said.

More Examples

  • Place a large pot of well-salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. –New York Times
  • Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat to medium-low and gently simmer until chicken is cooked through. –The Wall Street Journal


To bring to a boil means to heat water to 100 degrees Celsius or 212 degrees Fahrenheit or to causing rising anger in someone.