Boil the Ocean

The idiom "boil the ocean" means to undertake an impossible or overly ambitious task, or to make a task more complex or difficult than necessary.

Boil the Ocean: Meaning and Definitions

  • The phrase “boil the ocean” typically means to undertake an impossible task or to make a task unnecessarily difficult.
  • It often suggests trying to do too much at once or attempting an overly ambitious project.
  • This idiom can be used to describe a situation where someone takes on a daunting task that is unlikely to be successful.
  • It might also imply a waste of effort or resources on unachievable or overly complex goals.
  • Furthermore, it may denote the act of making a task more complicated than it needs to be.

Boil the Ocean Synonyms

  1. Chasing the impossible
  2. Mission impossible
  3. Attempting the unattainable

Example Sentences

  • Trying to solve all the company’s problems in one meeting is like trying to boil the ocean.
  • She tends to boil the ocean by taking on more tasks than she can handle.
  • They were accused of trying to boil the ocean with their ambitious project plans.
  • You’re going to exhaust yourself if you keep trying to boil the ocean.
  • He has a tendency to boil the ocean, which often results in unnecessary stress and effort.

The Origins and Etymology of Boil the Ocean

The phrase “boil the ocean” is believed to have originated in business jargon in the late 20th century.

It was used to describe an approach that wastes effort on unimportant details or tasks.

The metaphor represents the sheer enormity and impossibility of boiling the ocean.

You can read more about it on Wiktionary.

douglas heingartner editor saywhatyo!
Douglas Heingartner

Douglas Heingartner, the editor of SayWhatYo!, is a journalist based in Amsterdam. He has written about science, technology, and more for publications including The New York Times, The Economist, Wired, the BBC, The Washington Post, New Scientist, The Associated Press, IEEE Spectrum, Quartz, The Village Voice, The Los Angeles Times, Frieze, and others. His Google Scholar profile is here, his LinkedIn profile is here, and his Muck Rack profile is here.