(A) watched pot never boils


      • discourage someone
        Advise against engaging in a particular activity or task, cautioning that it will not result in any positive outcome or benefit

      • impatience
        Express frustration with waiting for something to happen, especially when it seems to be taking a long time

    Examples of (A) watched pot never boils

    • John sat in his kitchen waiting for the water in the pot to boil. But no matter how long he watched, the water just stayed put. It was as if the pot had a secret agreement with the water never to boil in front of John's eyes.

      This idiom means that when you closely monitor or are overly anxious about something, it may seem like it's taking forever to happen or accomplish. Just as a pot of water will eventually boil on its own, without constant monitoring, the same can be said for many things in life that take time and patience to come to fruition. This idiom is often used to encourage people to have faith and to not obsess over the outcome, as desperately willing something to happen can sometimes have the opposite effect.

    • Sally stood in the kitchen, staring intently at the water in the pot as it slowly came to a boil. But no matter how long she waited, the water seemed to have no intention of boiling. Sally's anticipation was high, but she soon realized that (A) watched pot never boils.

      The idiom "a watched pot never boils" means that when we obsessively and impatiently wait for something to happen, it often takes longer than expected. Sally's fixation on the pot made her feel like time was standing still, but if she had turned her attention to something else, she may have noticed the pot boiling without her even realizing it. The expression originated from the idea that if you constantly monitor a pot of water as it heats up, you may not perceive the gradual change in temperature until it reaches the boiling point. The phrase is often used to describe unnecessarily lengthy or frustrating processes that seem interminable due to a sense of detachment or disinterest on the part of the observer. In Sally's case, she might have been more effectively employed in another activity while she waited for the water to come to a boil.

    • Mary sat in front of the stove, eagerly waiting for the water in the pot to boil. However, no matter how long she watched, the water seemed to be staying right at its original temperature. Mary was frustrated, as she had heard the idiom "a watched pot never boils" and believed it was a myth.

      This is a classic example of the idiom "a watched pot never boils." It means that when we are overly focused on or expectant of something happening, it can sometimes seem to take longer than it actually does. In Mary's case, her intense focus on the pot caused her to believe that it would never boil, even though it was simply taking its normal amount of time. Despite popular belief, the science behind why a watched pot never seems to boil is real. When water is heated, the molecules move faster and collide more frequently. However, the amount of water in a pot is so large that this process can take several minutes before the water reaches a boil. During this time, it can seem like nothing is happening, which is why the idiom exists.


    The idiom "(A) watched pot never boils" can be used to discourage someone from engaging in a particular activity or to express impatience with waiting for something to happen. It is commonly used to caution against expecting results or progress when constantly monitoring or obsessing over a situation. The idiom carries the message that constantly focusing on something will only make the process seem longer and more frustrating.

    It can also be used to advise others to be patient, as constantly checking on something will not speed up the process. The idiom is often used in a lighthearted or humorous manner to remind people to be patient and not to expect instant results.

    Origin of "(A) watched pot never boils"

    The origin of the idiom "(A) watched pot never boils" can be traced back to the late 18th century. The concept of a watched pot not boiling is based on the idea that when someone anxiously waits for something to happen, it seems to take longer. The idiom is often used to illustrate the futility of constantly monitoring or focusing on a process that requires time to unfold.

    The idiom is derived from the literal act of watching a pot of water on a stove. When one stares at the pot, it may seem as if the water is taking longer to boil, even though the actual time it takes for the water to heat up remains the same. Over time, this concept evolved into a figurative expression to caution against impatience and the belief that constantly checking on something will make it happen faster. The idiom has since become a common phrase used to advise against obsessing over a situation and to encourage patience.