Origin of simmer

First recorded in 1645–55; alteration of earlier simper < ?
Related formssim·mer·ing·ly, adverbre·sim·mer, verbun·sim·mered, adjectiveun·sim·mer·ing, adjective

Synonym study

3. See boil1.
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British Dictionary definitions for simmer

simmer

verb

to cook (food) gently at or just below the boiling point
(intr) to be about to break out in rage or excitement

noun

the act, sound, or state of simmering

Word Origin for simmer

C17: perhaps of imitative origin; compare German summen to hum
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 simmer
v.

1650s, alteration of simperen "to simmer" (late 15c.), possibly imitative; not thought to be connected to simper (v.). OED says the change is "probably due to a feeling of phonetic appropriateness." Figurative sense, of feelings, "to be agitated" is from 1764. Opposite sense, in simmer down, first recorded 1871, probably from the notion of moving from a full boil to a mere simmer.

I must and will keep shady and quiet till Bret Harte simmers down a little. [Mark Twain, letter, 1871]

Related: Simmered; simmering. The noun meaning "a condition of simmering" is from 1809.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper