pot·​boil·​er | \ ˈpät-ˌbȯi-lər How to pronounce potboiler (audio) \

Definition of potboiler

: a usually inferior work (as of art or literature) produced chiefly for profit

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Potboiler draws its meaning from what was once the heartbeat of the home, the hearth and its boiling pot. In the days before modern conveniences, it was essential to maintain a fire within a home's hearth for warmth and domestic activities. In order "to make the pot boil" or "to keep the pot boiling" for cooking, one needed fuel, and to acquire fuel one typically needed an income. When artistic and literary works, especially inferior ones, became the means of keeping the pot boiling in some homes during the 19th century, it didn't take long for the literati to criticize such works as insignificant potboilers.

Examples of potboiler in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web But the combination of marquee names, auteur production, and potboiler plotting has proved irresistible. Taylor Antrim, Vogue, 5 May 2022 But then Tina Brown, the writer making the comment in her new royal potboiler, is not, in that sense, nice. Anna Mundow, WSJ, 22 Apr. 2022 As a young man, Bourgoin resembled a character out of a potboiler. Lauren Collins, The New Yorker, 4 Apr. 2022 Based on a Nora Roberts potboiler, the movie follows Grace (Milano), a successful mystery novelist whose sister, Kathleen (Emilie Ullerup), is killed. Tina Horn, Rolling Stone, 27 Jan. 2022 Unlike that wife, Hitler at least gets some grudging respect and decent dialogue in this potboiler about the diplomatic efforts to stop Germany. New York Times, 20 Jan. 2022 Get ready to simmer in the latest potboiler from prolific creator Taylor Sheridan. Lynette Rice, EW.com, 3 Dec. 2021 Before slipping off to Berlin, Crowley leaves a fake suicide note with Pessoa, who not only tries to milk it for publicity but drafts a potboiler novel, The Mouth of Hell, about the events. Damion Searls, The New Republic, 14 Sep. 2021 Published in 1987, Mahmoody’s pulp memoir had all the makings of a potboiler. Audrey Clare Farley, The New Republic, 25 Aug. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'potboiler.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of potboiler

1783, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of potboiler was in 1783

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Dictionary Entries Near potboiler



pot bottom

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Last Updated

17 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Potboiler.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/potboiler. Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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