melt, thaw and antonyms

Keith Gama de Carvalho from Brazil writes:

Could you please tell me if there are any differences between the verbs melt and thaw? I'm thinking about the second scene of the first act of Hamlet by William Shakespeare:

O, that this too solid flesh would melt

Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!


Roger Woodham replies:


When something melts, it changes from a solid to a liquid state, usually because it is heated:

  • Melt 50 grams of butter in a saucepan and then add the onions and mushrooms.
  • The snow on our grass melted quickly in the warm sunshine.

We also have the phrasal verbs melt away and melt (away) into meaning to disappear:

  • At first they were enemies, but over time their differences melted away.
  • The shoplifters just melted (away) into the Oxford Street crowds of Christmas shoppers.




When something thaws it warms up slowly and changes gradually from a frozen state to a temperature above freezing point:

  • The snow was thawing and the streets had become slushy.

We also have the phrasal verb thaw out, which we use when referring to frozen food or if we have just come inside from very cold weather:

  • If I were you, I would take it out of the freezer and leave it to thaw out overnight.
  • Let me just stand by the radiator and thaw out a bit before I start to cook dinner.

Hamlet, in the speech you refer to, Keith, is mourning the death of his father two months earlier and is distraught about his mother's hasty re-marriage to his father's brother. For this
reason he wishes that his flesh might melt into the dew.

We still use melt figuratively today when we speak of our feelings or emotions melting, e.g.:

  • Once on stage, his inhibitions melted and he gave a confident performance.

Antonyms of melt and thaw would be:


Study the examples below to see how these verbs may be used:

  • If it's cold enough in January, the lake will freeze (over) and we can go skating.
  • His assets were frozen because he was five hundred thousand pounds in debt.
  • This glue dries very fast and hardens in less than an hour.
  • His attitude to the company hardened when he realized that his shares were worthless.
  • Pour the beef dripping into a bowl and when it has solidified you can spread it on toast.
  • All the various factions solidified and promised allegiance to their leader.
  • She was afraid. Her whole body stiffened when she heard him come through the door.
  • They were clearly going to lose, but their resistance stiffened and they fought harder than before.



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