World Wide Words logo

Piping hot

Q From Steve Ellis: When I looked up the phrase piping hot in a dictionary, it gave the definition ‘very hot’. When I looked up piping, I didn’t find any such sense. Can you elaborate?

A The sense of piping that’s relevant here is the one for making a musical sound, as by playing the pipes. The idea is that a dish that’s piping hot is one so hot it makes a sizzling or hissing noise, perhaps not closely similar to the sound of the pipes, but at least audible. It’s first recorded near the end of the fourteenth century, in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In the Miller’s Tale it says (in modernised spelling): “Wafers piping hot out of the gleed”, where a wafer is a kind of thin cake, baked between wafer-irons, and gleed is the hot coals of a fire.

Page created 8 Apr. 2000

Support World Wide Words and keep this site alive.

Donate by selecting your currency and clicking the button.


Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you.

Buy from Amazon UK Buy from Amazon USA

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved. See the copyright page for notes about linking to and reusing this page. For help in viewing the site, see the technical FAQ. Your comments, corrections and suggestions are always welcome.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-pip1.htm
Last modified: 8 April 2000.