Definition of kettle in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈkedl/


1A container or device in which water is boiled, having a lid, spout, and handle; a teakettle.
Example sentences
  • He quickly took the cup and kettle away from me, as if I were a criminal.
  • I bought a lovely red kettle from a shop which I walked into on a whim.
  • He glanced in my direction, then back to the new iron kettle, which rattled and hissed.
1.1A large metal pot for cooking, usually with a handle.
2chiefly British A small area in which demonstrators or protesters are confined by police seeking to maintain order during a demonstration: activists in the kettle were protesting at being held and resisting arrest
More example sentences
  • One of the activists inside the kettle said: "I'm here because the public sector is getting cut. The people who are getting hurt are the poorest in the country."
  • When the police resorted to kettling tactics during last year's student protests, they didn't offer such facilities to those trapped inside the kettle.
  • The sight from inside the kettle was of a cordon of riot police several deep.


[with object] chiefly British
(Of the police) confine (a group of demonstrators or protesters) to a small area, as a method of crowd control during a demonstration: the plan was to get as close to the protest as possible without getting kettled (as noun kettling) police were criticized for their use of controversial tactics such as kettling
More example sentences
  • The demonstration was to begin at noon but even before all the protesters had gathered the police suddenly swooped in and kettled them.
  • I hoped to make it a lot more difficult for the police to kettle children but I am at least pleased that the judges have clarified that the welfare of young people should be made a priority.
  • Witnesses say a section of the crowd were ushered from Parliament Square on to Westminster Bridge before being kettled for around three hours until they were released.



a different kettle of fish

informal A completely different type of person or thing from the one previously mentioned: the new office is a rather different kettle of fish
More example sentences
  • We cannot forget what happened 50 years ago, but things are now a different kettle of fish.
  • I had netting up to stop herons getting in but the otter is a different kettle of fish and has got through the netting.
  • Going all the way and winning the title is of course a different kettle of fish and a challenge I would suspect that is beyond them for a while yet.

the pot calling the kettle black

see pot1.

a fine (or pretty) kettle of fish

informal An awkward state of affairs.
Example sentences
  • Jason must inform her that he's gotten himself into a fine kettle of fish by taking over the reigns from Sonny.



Pronunciation: /ˈkedlˌfo͝ol/
noun (plural kettlefuls)
Example sentences
  • Boil one kettleful of water and pour into peanut paste while it's still on the heat and blend well.
  • Sri poured tea from the last kettleful that Eko had prepared that morning.


Old English cetel, cietel, of Germanic origin, based on Latin catillus, diminutive of catinus 'deep container for cooking or serving food'. In Middle English the word's form was influenced by Old Norse ketill.

  • Originally a kettle was any container used to heat water over a fire. There may be a clue as to how a pretty kettle of fish, where the pretty is ironical, developed in a travel book of the 1790s. This describes ‘a kettle of fish’ as a term used in Berwick-upon-Tweed for a high-society picnic where freshly caught salmon were cooked in kettles on the banks of the River Tweed. Kettle goes back to Latin catinus ‘a deep container for cooking or serving food’. The first example of the pot calling the kettle black, meaning that a person's criticisms of another could equally well apply to themselves, dates from 1693.

Words that rhyme with kettle

fettle, metal, mettle, nettle, petal, Popocatépetl, settle

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: ket·tle

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