a bottomless, boxlike, usually glass-covered structure and the bed of earth it covers, heated typically by fermenting manure or electrical cables, for growing plants out of season.
a place or environment favoring rapid growth or spread, especially of something disliked or unwanted: a hotbed of disease.
Slang. a bed shared by two or more persons in shifts, each sleeping in it for or at a designated time and then vacating it for the next occupant.

verb (used without object), hot·bed·ded, hot·bed·ding.

Slang. to share a bed in shifts, so that it is always occupied.

Origin of hotbed

First recorded in 1620–30; hot + bed Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for hotbed

Contemporary Examples of hotbed

Historical Examples of hotbed

  • Sects were springing up all over England as weeds in a hotbed.


    James Anthony Froude

  • If there is no greenhouse, a hotbed is an important help in the garden.

    Agriculture for Beginners

    Charles William Burkett

  • Industry—and the engineer is the backbone of industry—is a hotbed of competition.

  • It is a hotbed of heathen enthusiasm and of blinded devotion.

    A Tour of the Missions

    Augustus Hopkins Strong

  • A corrupt, unregenerate heart, which is a hotbed and nursery of the devil.


    J. W. Byers

British Dictionary definitions for hotbed



a glass-covered bed of soil, usually heated by fermenting material, used for propagating plants, forcing early vegetables, etc
a place offering ideal conditions for the growth of an idea, activity, etc, esp one considered bada hotbed of insurrection
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 hotbed

1620s, from hot + bed (n.); originally "bed of earth heated by fermenting manure for forcing growing plants;" generalized sense of "place that fosters rapid growth" is from 1768.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper