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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Did You Know?

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

And pivoting from the intimacy of Creed to a generation-spanning family epic straight out of a potboiler novel is just a weird call all around. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "Creed II is no Creed. But it’s a pretty good Rocky sequel.," 21 Nov. 2018 But around 1890, with the rise of naturalism, critics soured on the potboilers that made her flamboyance shine. Rachel Shteir, WSJ, "‘Playing to the Gods’ Review: Avatars of Female Anguish," 23 Aug. 2018 And the main purveyor of inappropriateness in this potboiler isn’t an adult film star, amazingly, but the president of the United States. Brian Chasnoff, San Antonio Express-News, "Chasnoff: Trump makes it easy to write a script for Cornyation," 24 Apr. 2018 The problem with Oscar Wilde's 1895 potboiler An Ideal Husband is precisely the thing for which its author is routinely praised: its flood of exquisite witticisms. Justin Hayford, Chicago Reader, "A new production of An Ideal Husband humanizes Oscar Wilde," 13 Apr. 2018 Perhaps the Met carefully planned this deep dive into verismo, that blood-and-guts, heart-on-sleeve, homicidally inclined genre of Italian potboiler that flourished around the turn of the 20th century. Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, "Review: Met Opera’s Dreary January Is Brightened by ‘Cav/Pag’," 9 Jan. 2018 The first season was very much a courtroom potboiler. Bill Keveney, USA TODAY, "Why title of FX's Versace series doesn't call murderer by his name," 5 Jan. 2018 Yes, the theatrical cognoscenti can pick at its overblown theatrics, its potboiler romance and Gothic suspense, and its faux-operatic pretensions. Theodore P. Mahne, NOLA.com, "'Phantom of the Opera' revisits Saenger with fresh new production that maintains the magic," 19 Mar. 2018 Hollywood’s fascination with posh potboilers stretches back to the mid-20th century, when Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca won an Academy Award. Amy Nicholson, Town & Country, "What This Spring's Thriller Thoroughbreds Reveals About the Horrors of Being Rich," 26 Feb. 2018

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.

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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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English Language Learners Definition of potboiler

: a book, movie, etc., that is made in usually a cheap way in order to make money rather than for artistic reasons

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