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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English bile, büle (boil, tumor), from Old English bȳl, bȳle (boil, swelling), from Proto-Germanic *būlijō, *būlō (boil). Akin to Dutch buil (boil, swelling), German Beule (boil, hump), Icelandic beyla (swelling, hump). The expected form is bile; the rounding of the diphthong could be caused by the initial b- and/or by association with etymology 2.


boil (plural boils)

  1. A localized accumulation of pus in the skin, resulting from infection.
    Synonyms: abscess, carbuncle, cyst, furuncle, pimple, pustule
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Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English boillen, from Old French boillir (see French bouillir) from Latin bullīre, present active infinitive of bulliō (I bubble, boil), from bulla (bubble). Displaced native Old English weallan (intransitive) and wiellan (transitive). More at wall, well.


boil (plural boils)

  1. The point at which fluid begins to change to a vapour; the boiling point.
    Add the noodles when the water comes to the boil.
  2. An instance of boiling.
    Surface water will do, but give it a good boil before drinking it.
  3. A dish of boiled food, especially seafood.
    a down-home boil with plenty of crab
    • 2007 January 30, Angela Skinner, Race Day Grub: Recipes from the NASCAR Family, John Wiley & Sons, →ISBN, page 65:
      This is Brad's classic shrimp boil—a recipe he makes for every tailgate party. Brad demands, “Don't use utensils!” INGREDIENTS: Two 6-ounce boxes Old Bay crab/shrimp boil seasoning []
    • 2009 September 29, John Besh, My New Orleans: The Cookbook, Andrews McMeel Publishing, →ISBN, pages 28, 30, 123:
      CRAWFISH BOIL EN GELÉE (TERRINE OF CRAWFISH)  [] For a typical Louisiana shrimp boil, use the recipe for Crawfish Boil (page 28), substituting shrimp for the crawfish []
  4. (US) A social event at which people gather to boil and eat food, especially seafood. (Compare a bake or clambake.)
    a down-home boil at the town hall
    • 1992, C. Paige Gutierrez, Cajun Foodways, Univ. Press of Mississippi, →ISBN, page 89:
      Men and boys also learn to cook at the public and semipublic food events at which men are the primary cooks. These include crawfish and seafood boils, family boucheries, and community festivals. For example, at one crab boil I attended, a grandfather and his eight-year-old grandson cooked the second batch of crabs [] . The advent of crawfish farming has expanded the availability of live crawfish beyond the old seasonal limits just described, but few Cajuns in St. Martin Parish have crawfish boils, or eat crawfish in any form, out of season.
    • 1996, United States International Trade Commission, Crawfish Tail Meat from China, page 5:
      The whole live crawfish typically are consumed at home and at crawfish boils and other social events where the crawfish is boiled []
    • 2012 November 20, Jill Ann Harrison, Buoyancy on the Bayou: Shrimpers Face the Rising Tide of Globalization, Cornell University Press, →ISBN, page 89:
      I met him and his wife, Diane, at a shrimp boil I'd been invited to by another ex-trawler named Lindel.
    • 2018 June 4, Kate Parker Horigan, Consuming Katrina: Public Disaster and Personal Narrative, Univ. Press of Mississippi, →ISBN, page 109:
      I also felt the desire to be in a more intimate, familiar setting where we could choose whether or not to talk about our memories of 2005; I ended up spending the evening at a shrimp boil hosted by good friends.
    • 2020 February 17, Harriet Keyserling, Against the Tide: One Woman's Political Struggle, Univ of South Carolina Press, →ISBN, page 155:
      When Mondale had run for president two summers before, for some reason he opened his campaign in Beaufort, at a shrimp boil in our new waterfront park.
  5. (rare, nonstandard) The collective noun for a group of hawks.
  6. (archaic) A bubbling.
    • 1828, James Hogg, Mary Burnet:
      He swam to the place where Mary disappeared but there was neither boil nor gurgle on the water, nor even a bell of departing breath, to mark the place where his beloved had sunk.
    • 1897, Rudyard Kipling, Captains Courageous:
      The sea round them clouded and darkened, and then frizzed up in showers of tiny silver fish, and over a space of five or six acres the cod began to leap like trout in May; while behind the cod three or four broad gray-backs broke the water into boils.
Derived terms[edit]
Terms derived from boil (noun)


boil (third-person singular simple present boils, present participle boiling, simple past and past participle boiled)

  1. (transitive, of liquids) To heat to the point where it begins to turn into a gas.
    Synonyms: seethe, well, (UK, dialectal, dated, uncommon) plaw; see also Thesaurus:cook
    Antonym: condense
    Boil some water in a pan.
  2. (transitive, intransitive) To cook in boiling water.
    Boil the eggs for three minutes.
    Is the rice boiling yet?
  3. (intransitive, of liquids) To begin to turn into a gas, seethe.
    Pure water boils at 100 degrees Celsius.
  4. (transitive, UK, informal) To bring to a boil, to heat so as to cause the contents to boil.
  5. (intransitive, informal, used only in progressive tenses, of weather) To be uncomfortably hot.
    Synonyms: be baking, be scorching, be sweltering
    Antonym: be freezing
    It’s boiling outside!
  6. (intransitive, informal, used only in progressive tenses) To feel uncomfortably hot.
    Synonyms: be seething, be baking, be stewing
    Antonym: be freezing
    I’m boiling in here – could you open the window?
  7. (transitive) To form, or separate, by boiling or evaporation.
    to boil sugar or salt
    • 2016, Alex Groner, American Heritage History of American Business:
      Another leader in the packaged product business was the Procter & Gamble Company, formed in Cincinnati in 1837 by William Procter, who molded candles, and his brother-in-law, James Gamble, who boiled soap.
  8. (obsolete) To steep or soak in warm water.
    • 1631, Francis [Bacon], “(please specify |century=I to X)”, in Sylua Syluarum: Or A Naturall Historie. In Ten Centuries. [], 3rd edition, London: [] William Rawley; [p]rinted by J[ohn] H[aviland] for William Lee [], →OCLC:
      To try whether seeds be old or new, the sense cannot inform; but if you boil them in water, the new seeds will sprout sooner.
  9. To be agitated like boiling water; to bubble; to effervesce.
    the boiling waves of the sea
  10. To be moved or excited with passion; to be hot or fervid.
    His blood boils with anger.
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Terms derived from boil (verb)
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