A watched pot never boils

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A watched pot never boils is a proverb. A proverb is a short, common saying or phrase that gives advice or shares a universal truth. Often, a proverb is so familiar that a speaker will only quote half of it, relying on the listener to supply the ending of the proverb himself.  We will examine the meaning of the proverb a watched pot never boils, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

A watched pot never boils means that time seems to move more slowly when one is anticipating something or waiting for something to occur. The origin of this phrase dates back to the mid-1700s. Benjamin Franklin alludes to this proverb in a report he made concerning mesmerism: ” ‘…a watched pot is slow to boil,’ as Poor Richard says.” Poor Richard is a character invented by Franklin for his annual, Poor Richard’s Almanack, published from 1732 to 1758. In fact, a watched pot never boils is not found in any editions of Poor Richard’s Almanack.


I thought about the idiom “A watched pot never boils” as I took yet another look at the two hands of bananas suspended by rope from the porch rafters. (The Orlando Sentinel)

In the quantum world, the folk wisdom really is true: “A watched pot never boils.” (The Cornell Chronicle)

He was tempted to stay all night, but remembering the proverb about the watched pot, he forced himself to leave, locking the room behind him. (The Globe and Mail)

“When we are concentrating on the duration of an event, time seems to pass inexorably more slowly than normal, in line with the phrase ‘a watched pot never boils’.” (The Huffington Post)