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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.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


literary full of violent movement; seething; churning; extremely rough
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014
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"
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.
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.
consumer confidence tumbled this month to its lowest reading in a year and a half, tested by the partial government shutdown and roiling financial markets.
Calm Waters, Rolling Swells & Roiling Seas: A Whaling City Sampler is an eclectic music CD showcasing some of the best jazz recordings from a wide variety of music artists.
Stars are roiling balls of plasma, and as they roil, their flickers and pulsations reveal clues to what's going on inside.
Rescuers threw ladders and tarps across mud up to 6 feet deep to help hundreds of trapped people from cars that got caught in a roiling river of mud along a major Southern California trucking route - but amazingly, officials said, no deaths or injuries were reported Pics: KABC-TV via AP) Residents carry their belongings towards their house on stilts as strong winds and rains caused by Typhoon |Koppu hit the coastal town of Navotas, north of Manila, Philippines, yesterday
Summary: Exiled Muslim cleric at heart of bitter feud with Erdogan denies allegations that he is behind vast graft scandal roiling government.
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.
Second, the roiling of cascading statistics creates so much uncertainty that nobody really understands what's going on.
I pushed the dam, along with the towers and the cranes still being used to build it, up as high as I could in the picture to allow as much room as possible for the roiling waters of the Yangtze River to underscore my point.
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.