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v. roiled, roil·ing, roils
1. To make (a liquid) turbulent or muddy or cloudy by stirring up sediment: The storm roiled the waters of the harbor.
2. To cause to be in a state of agitation or disorder: wars that roiled the continent for decades.
3. Usage Problem To put in a state of emotional agitation; rile or upset.
1. 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.
2. To be agitated or chaotic: when campuses were roiling with demonstrations.
3. To be vexed or upset: a person who is roiling with shame.

[Origin 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.


literary full of violent movement; seething; churning; extremely rough
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Adj.1.roiling - (of a liquid) agitated vigorouslyroiling - (of a liquid) agitated vigorously; in a state of turbulence; "the river's roiling current"; "turbulent rapids"
agitated - physically disturbed or set in motion; "the agitated mixture foamed and bubbled"
References in classic literature ?
I had dug out the spring and made a well of clear gray water, where I could dip up a pailful without roiling it, and thither I went for this purpose almost every day in midsummer, when the pond was warmest.
ADDIS ABABA, Rabi'I 4, 1435, Jan 5, 2014, SPA -- Two warring factions from South Sudan are holding more advanced peace talks for the first time since conflict began roiling the country Dec.
At Thursday's TribLive conversation, University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa discussed the roiling conflict between the Board of Regents and UT-Austin President Bill Powers.
Egypt's army chief warns that the state could collapse if the latest political crisis roiling the nation drags on but also defended the right of people to protest.
Second, the roiling of cascading statistics creates so much uncertainty that nobody really understands what's going on.
WHO knew it would take a world-famous soccer superstar to finally get the passions for professional football roiling through Los Angeles once again?
The trucks kept gasoline and other vital supplies roiling to the front as American troops pushed the Germans out of France and back toward Berlin.
They tumble into the roiling waters but Monk cannot save them.
The semiautobiographical tale gives us a glimpse into the lives of the Wongs, a Chinese-American family whose idyllic suburban existence belies the quiet drama roiling inside each of them.
The new model relies on observations of the movement of electrically charged gas, or plasma, as it flows across the sun's visible surface and deep within the roiling interior.
The impact of Hurricane Katrina is still roiling the national energy markets, and as such, Massachusetts faced the threat of rolling blackouts this winter.
Pepys's words, rendered by Prieto in cartoonlike letters of wildly varying size that tumble across roiling fields of color, reflect both the turbulent richness of the famous Londoner's life and times and the enduring, universal nature of his personal and political insights.