of an egg : boiled until both white and yolk have solidified
: devoid of sentimentality : tough
a hard-boiled drill sergeant
: of, relating to, or being a detective story featuring a tough unsentimental protagonist and a matter-of-fact attitude towards violence
: hardheaded, practical
hard-boiled business decisions

Did you know?

As a writer of local color, Mark Twain often used colloquialisms and regionalisms that were unfamiliar to many of his readers. When some of these expressions eventually caught on in the language at large, they were traced back to Twain. For example, he is credited with the first printed use of blow up ("to lose self-control") in 1871, of slop ("effusive sentimentality") in 1866, and of the phrase sweat out ("to endure or wait through the course of") in 1876. Hard-boiled is documented as being first used by Twain in 1886 as an adjective meaning "emotionally hardened." Apparently, Twain and others saw the boiling of an egg to harden the white and yolk as a metaphor for other kinds of hardening.

Examples of hard-boiled in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In a smaller pot of water over high heat, boil eggs, covered, until just hard-boiled, 7 minutes, then run under cold water. Aleksandra Crapanzano, WSJ, 8 Mar. 2023 For lunch or dinner, top a salad with scrambled or hard-boiled eggs. Amanda MacMillan, Health, 1 Mar. 2023 This is outback noir — oblique, secretive and as hard-boiled as the ground is hard-baked — and Sen wears it well. Guy Lodge, Variety, 23 Feb. 2023 As Detective Munch, Mr. Belzer was brainy but hard-boiled, cynical but sensitive. Alex Traub, New York Times, 19 Feb. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'hard-boiled.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1589, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of hard-boiled was in 1589


Dictionary Entries Near hard-boiled

Cite this Entry

“Hard-boiled.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hard-boiled. Accessed 1 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


: boiled until both white and yolk have become solid
hard-boiled eggs
: lacking tender feelings : tough
a hard-boiled prison guard

More from Merriam-Webster on hard-boiled

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