Set 47 – Five New Words for Feb 16

Theme: Words of nautical origins

1. doldrums (DOHL-druhmz)

1. A state or period of stagnation or slump.
2. A region of the ocean near the equator marked by calms and light variable winds.

In the olden days when a sail-powered vessel hit a calm region of the ocean, it could be stuck there for days. Sailors called that area the doldrums.

“While the US stock market roared ahead, Europe was left in the doldrums.”

2. scupper (SKUP-uhr)

noun: An opening for draining water, as on the side of a ship.
verb tr.: 1. To prevent from succeeding. 2. To overwhelm, disable, or destroy.

“Three possible misfortunes could scupper recovery.”

3. scuttlebutt (SKUT-l-but)

1. Rumor, gossip.
2. A drinking fountain or a cask of drinking water on a ship.

The word arose from the sailors’ habit of gathering around the scuttlebutt on a ship’s deck. Things haven’t changed much with time. Now we have watercooler gossip in modern offices.

“Here’s a roundup of iPad 3 rumors, with a little context as to whether you should believe the scuttlebutt or not.”

4. bonanza (buh-NAN-zah, boh-)

1. A source of sudden wealth or profits.
2. A very large amount.
3. A rich mine or pocket of ore.

From Spanish bonanza (calm sea, hence good luck or prosperity), from Latin bonus (good).


“Belfast residents hope the Titanic exhibition will spur a tourism bonanza.”

“We feel we have a major discovery here, with bonanza-type grades of silver, and even the gold values are very high as well.”

5. groundswell

1. A surge of opinion or feeling about someone or something.
2. A broad deep swell of the ocean, caused by a distant storm or an earthquake.

Groundswell was the term sailors used for a swelling of the ocean. Why ground? Originally, ground referred to the bottom of anything, especially an ocean.

“A nationwide general strike fuelled by a groundswell of anger brought parts of Spain to a halt yesterday.”

“Waves along the coasts may get as high as 23 feet this weekend due to two significant groundswells.”


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