from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A literary or artistic work of poor quality, produced quickly for profit.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A work of art or literature produced merely “to keep the pot boiling”—that is, for the sake of providing the necessaries of life.
  • noun A housekeeper. Compare pot-waller, potwalloper. Halliwell.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun Cant A term applied derisively to any literary or artistic work, and esp. a painting, done simply for money and the means of living.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun Alternative spelling of pot boiler.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a literary composition of poor quality that was written quickly to make money (to boil the pot)


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[From the phrase boil the pot, to provide one's livelihood.]


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  • The contest in every good man's heart to-day between the "ought to" and the "must," between his best work and the "potboiler," is his personal share of this incessant struggle between social interest and self-interest.

    Women and Economics: A Study of the Economic Relation Between Men and Women as a Factor in Social Evolution 1898

  • In literary circles this narrative might be termed a potboiler - a tale hastily conceived and executed with commercial profits foremost in mind.

    On Frozen Blog 2009

  • That's pretty good for what some critics considered a mere "potboiler" or "tearjerker" -- but had it been just that, it wouldn't have had the impact that it had.

    Thomas Gladysz: A Lost Girl, a Fake Diary, and a Forgotten Author 2010

  • In a way it's wonderful--you are alone in your head with beautiful music in stereophonic glory--or you can listen to every breath William Faulkner makes as he reads from A Light in August my favorite Faulkner was his "potboiler," as he called it, Sanctuary; and the novel of his that first charmed me was Mosquitos.

    NOISE!!!!! The Daily Growler 2006

  • Salil's tight-knit screenplay gives the film a racy pace and saves it from being reduced to the usual Swapan Saha potboiler which is almost impossible to sit through till the end.

    Screen News 2009

  • A Darkover Retrospective tells the story of the writing of many of MZB's early Darkover books, and also tells the story of her writing career --- from writing stories for small amounts of money, as well as writing 'potboiler' gothics and even editing an astrology magazine to provide extra family income, from her gradual realization that she was in fact regarded by editors and readers as a 'real' writer, and that this was something she could make a career of.

    A Darkover Retrospective: Marion Zimmer Bradley's writing beginnings nissa_amas_katoj 2009

  • Blu-ray, 20th Century FoxKate Winslet takes on the role made famous by Joan Crawford in HBO's mini-series adaptation of James M Cain's potboiler.

    This week's new DVD & Blu-ray 2011

  • The Rat Pack fanbase loves Some Came Running, from the James Jones potboiler, not just for its Sinatra-Dino-MacLaine dream cast, but for its delirious expressionism, especially in the hallucinatory final fairground sequence.

    Meet Me In St Louis embodies the virtues of a bygone era 2011

  • Does that appreciation extend to the latest potboiler?

    Archive 2009-04-01 2009

  • Their first case, a home invasion rape-murder that uncovers a series of pattern crimes with an unlikely prime suspect, features a strong guest performance by White Collar's Tim DeKay as a grieving widower but otherwise seems indistinguishable from a sordid Special Victims Unit potboiler.

    Roush Review: A LOLA Makeover 2011


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  • Cheap formulaic work. Derived from the idea that certain works are created strictly to provide one's livelihood — to keep a pot boiling on the stove. (From ArtLex)

    June 5, 2008

  • I always assumed it was so-called because of the popular demand for plot-driven narratives filled with action, i.e. in which the narrative pot was kept boiling.

    June 5, 2008

  • Yarb, that's a plotboiler...

    June 5, 2008

  • I've always referred to formulaic work as boilerplate.

    June 5, 2008