albatross

play
noun al·ba·tross \ˈal-bə-ˌtrȯs, -ˌträs\

Definition of albatross

plural

albatross

or

albatrosses

  1. 1 :  any of a family (Diomedeidae) of large web-footed seabirds that have long slender wings, are excellent gliders, and include the largest seabirds

  2. 2 a :  something that causes persistent deep concern or anxiety b :  something that greatly hinders accomplishment :  encumbrance

Examples of albatross in a sentence

  1. Fame has become an albatross that prevents her from leading a normal and happy life.

  2. Fame has become an albatross around her neck.

Why is albatross used to refer to a burden?

The albatross is an exceedingly large seabird, having a wingspan as much as 11 feet across. It is a magnificent glider, capable of staying aloft for hours at a time without flapping its wings, and tends to remain almost entirely at sea, typically coming ashore only to breed.

In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1798 poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the titular mariner kills an albatross that has been following his ship, bringing down a curse that leads to the death of all other crew members. As a punishment, the crew hang the dead bird from the mariner’s neck, and he remains alive to witness the ship’s fate unfold. This potent emblem led to the coining of a metaphorical meaning for albatross as something that causes anxiety or guilt or that burdens and encumbers.

Illustration of albatross

Origin and Etymology of albatross

probably alteration of obsolete alcatrace frigate bird, from Spanish or Portuguese alcatraz pelican, from Arabic al-ghaṭṭās, a kind of sea eagle


First Known Use: 1672


ALBATROSS Defined for English Language Learners

albatross

play
noun al·ba·tross \ˈal-bə-ˌtrȯs, -ˌträs\

Definition of albatross for English Language Learners

  • : a large white ocean bird that has very long wings

  • : a continuing problem that makes it difficult or impossible to do or achieve something


ALBATROSS Defined for Kids

albatross

play
noun al·ba·tross \ˈal-bə-ˌtrȯs\

Definition of albatross for Students

  1. :  a very large seabird with webbed feet


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