- An example of roil is for someone to upset protestors with an angry speech.
- An example of roil is to make river water cloudy as you stir up the sediment from the bank.
- to make (a liquid) cloudy, muddy, or unsettled by stirring up the sediment
- to stir up; agitate
- to make angry or irritable; rile
Origin of roilFrench rouiller from Old French rouil, roille, rust, mud, ultimately from Classical Latin robigo, rust, akin to ruber, red
verbroiled, roil·ing, roils
- To make (a liquid) turbulent or muddy or cloudy by stirring up sediment: The storm roiled the waters of the harbor.
- To cause to be in a state of agitation or disorder: wars that roiled the continent for decades.
- Usage Problem To put in a state of emotional agitation; rile or upset.
- To move or be in a state of turbulence, especially because of an abundance of something: storm clouds roiling overhead; a stream roiling with salmon.
- To be agitated or chaotic: when campuses were roiling with demonstrations.
- To be vexed or upset: a person who is roiling with shame.
Origin of roilOrigin unknown
Usage Note: The verb roil means literally “to make muddy or cloudy by stirring up sediment,” and this meaning has given rise to a number of figurative uses. Roil can also mean “to be or cause to be agitated.” Not surprisingly, the synonymous verb rile actually began its existence as a variant of roil. The figurative uses appear to unsettle many Usage Panelists since several seemingly unremarkable examples could not elicit acceptance from more than a thin majority. In our 2002 survey, the Panel was given both transitive and intransitive examples. The transitive example The lyrics of the song roiled some Asian students, who felt they were racist was acceptable to 52 percent of Panelists. The phrasal verb roil up found even less favor. Only 44 percent accepted the sentence The administration's comments have roiled up the university's professors, who felt the administration was declaring war on tenure. For intransitive uses, the Panel was no more sanguine. Some 54 percent accepted The controversy continued to roil just two days before the primaries. The literal use meaning “to move turbulently” found even fewer takers, with 34 percent accepting It was like wading through surf when a mountainous breaker is roiling toward you. According to most dictionaries, all these uses should be acceptable. The survey results suggest then that many people see these uses of roil as malapropisms for rile. Writers who count themselves in this number can use a synonym like upset or disturb for the transitive uses or boil or roll for the intransitive ones.
(third-person singular simple present roils, present participle roiling, simple past and past participle roiled)
- To render turbid by stirring up the dregs or sediment of
- To annoy; to make someone angry.
- (intransitive) To bubble, seethe.
Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster's Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.