What Does Bubble Over Mean?

Someone Bubbling Over Meaning

Definition: To feel an emotion so strongly that a person can’t keep it inside.

If someone bubbles over, he or she is so happy, so excited, so enthusiastic, that it is impossible to keep the emotions “bottled up.” The person, in a figurative sense, bubbles over, like a pot of water or soup.

This expression usually deals with positive emotions, but it can also deal with negative ones.

Origin of Bubble Over

It is possible that this expression first appeared in the 1800s and came from the physical properties of boiling water. If water is extremely hot, it boils too much and overflows from the pot.

Examples of Bubble Over

Meaning of bubble overIn this dialogue, a brother uses the idiom to caution his sister to control her emotions.

Maria: Hey! Our parents just called me. You’ll never guess what they accused me of.

Franco: Uh oh. This doesn’t sound good. What did they say?

Maria: They said that I have quit everything I have ever started, and that I’m a failure at life.

Franco: That sounds really harsh. Is that really exactly what they said?

Maria: Not exactly, but it’s what they meant. They are coming over for dinner tonight. I’m going to tell them exactly what I think of them!

Franco: I know you’re upset, but you can’t let that anger bubble over. If you yell at them tonight, you’ll regret it later.

Maria: I guess you’re right, but I can’t help it!

define bubbling over The second example shows two university students discussing their plans for the weekend.

Lorenzo: Guess what? I have a date tonight!

Alba: That’s great! You seem really excited. Is it going to be a special night?

Lorenzo: Yes. I’m planning on asking my girlfriend to marry me.

Alba: Congratulations! I’m so excited for you!

Lorenzo: I’m excited, too. I’m trying to hold back my excitement, so it doesn’t bubble over. I really want to surprise her.

Alba: Well, good luck. I hope that she says yes.

More Examples

This article excerpt uses the idiom to describe how thoughts of resentment turn into action.

  • On the eve of Davis’ 30th birthday, Robby shows up unannounced. Williams’ script contains some fairly familiar set pieces — Davis’ party of course becomes the crucible in which new secrets and old resentments bubble over. –Chicago Tribune

The below article excerpt describes how a supreme court judge used to feel so excited that he had to share his thoughts with others.

  • Thomas recalled how Scalia’s enthusiasm would bubble over when he knew he had come up with a good turn of phrase in an opinion or dissent. “‘Clarence, you have got to hear this. This is really good,'” Scalia would say, “whereupon he would deliver a dramatic reading.” –USA Today


The phrase to bubble over describes deep emotions that a person has to express.