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  1. a long, often cylindrical, cushion or pillow for a bed, sofa, etc.
  2. anything resembling this in form or in use as a support.
  3. any pillow, cushion, or pad.
  4. Nautical.
    1. Also called bolster plate.a circular casting on the side of a vessel, through which an anchor chain passes.
    2. a timber used as a temporary support.
    3. a beam for holding lines or rigging without chafing.
    4. a bag filled with buoyant material, fitted into a small boat.
  5. Metalworking. an anvillike support for the lower die of a drop forge.
  6. Masonry.
    1. a timber or the like connecting two ribs of a centering.
    2. a chisel with a blade splayed toward the edge, used for cutting bricks.
  7. Carpentry. a horizontal timber on a post for lessening the free span of a beam.
  8. a structural member on which one end of a bridge truss rests.
verb (used with object)
  1. to support with or as with a pillow or cushion.
  2. to add to, support, or uphold (sometimes followed by up): They bolstered their morale by singing. He bolstered up his claim with new evidence.

Origin of bolster

before 1000; Middle English bolstre (noun), Old English bolster; cognate with Old Norse bolstr, Dutch bolster, German Polster
Related formsbol·ster·er, nounun·bol·ster, verb (used with object)un·bol·stered, adjective

Synonyms for bolster

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Synonym study

1. See cushion. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Historical Examples of bolstering

British Dictionary definitions for bolstering


verb (tr)
  1. (often foll by up) to support or reinforce; strengthento bolster morale
  2. to prop up with a pillow or cushion
  3. to add padding toto bolster a dress
  1. a long narrow pillow or cushion
  2. any pad or padded support
  3. architect a short horizontal length of timber fixed to the top of a post to increase the bearing area and reduce the span of the supported beam
  4. a cold chisel having a broad blade splayed towards the cutting edge, used for cutting stone slabs, etc
Derived Formsbolsterer, nounbolstering, noun, adjective

Word Origin for bolster

Old English bolster; related to Old Norse bolstr, Old High German bolstar, Dutch bulster
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for bolstering



Old English bolster "bolster, cushion, something stuffed so that it swells up," especially "long, stuffed pillow," from Proto-Germanic *bolkhstraz (cf. Old Norse bolstr, Danish, Swedish, Dutch bolster, German polster), from PIE *bhelgh- "to swell" (see belly (n.)).



mid-15c. (implied in bolstered), "propped up, made to bulge" (originally of a woman's breasts), from bolster (n.). Figurative sense is from c.1500, on the notion of "to support with a bolster, prop up." Related: Bolstering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper