As I find out some verbs in Oxford, well (up) and fill (up), has the particle given in round brackets, so...

...Is there a difference in meaning between the verb well and well up; fill and fill up?

Meanings of well (up) and fill (up) in Oxford:

  • well (up) (of a liquid) to rise to the surface of something and start to flow => Tears were welling up in her eyes.

    well (up) (literary) (of an emotion) to become stronger => Hate welled up inside him as he thought of the two of them together.

  • fill somebody/yourself (up) (with something) (informal) to make somebody/yourself feel unable to eat any more => The kids filled themselves with snacks.

    fill something (up) to use up a particular period of time doing something => How do you fill your day now that you've retired?

  • Are you wondering specifically about these verbs, or are you wondering about what the parenthesis symbols, (), mean in this dictionary?
    – Justin
    Nov 4, 2019 at 15:24
  • @ReinstateMonica Well I want to know both of them.
    – Pith
    Nov 4, 2019 at 15:36

1 Answer 1


Fill X up when X is something that contains liquid often has the literal meaning and not the phrasal meaning.

My eyes filled up with tears

This means the eyes (capable of containing some quantity of tears) are now full of tears (and presumably dripping down the face).

This meaning of fill up can be interchanged with well up, even though they don't mean the same thing.

  • In sentence 'My eyes filled up with tears', do you think 'Fill up' and 'Fill without up' have the same meaning and we can use them interchangeably?
    – Pith
    Nov 5, 2019 at 0:58
  • 1
    Phrasal up can mean "completely", and fill up means fill completely. So fill up with tears is a more intense way of saying fill with tears.
    – LawrenceC
    Nov 5, 2019 at 16:17

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