In hot water

In hot water is an idiom that has been in use for over a hundred years. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom in hot water, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

To be in hot water means to be in trouble; to be in a dangerous situation; to be embroiled in difficulty. The expression in hot water can be used literally, of course, but is most often used figuratively. The term was first used as an idiom in the 1530s; the exact origin is uncertain. It may be simply related to cooking and the fact that something put into hot water is boiled. It may be related to a practice from the medieval times in which an accused criminal or sinner underwent an ordeal of having his arm plunged into boiling water; if it the burn healed, he was deemed innocent. Finally, the term in hot water may refer to a practice of pouring boiling water on intruders. Though the origin of the idiom is unknown, it has been popular for nearly 500 years.


She has long sought the Get and Simantov’s past refusals could potentially land him in hot water were he to return to Israel, according to the Times of Israel. (New York Post)

Over the weekend, one such tweet landed a northwest Ohio brewery in hot water. (Columbus Dispatch)

Garlic scam probe lands Thushan in hot water (Sri Lanka Mirror)

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