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bal·​last ˈba-ləst How to pronounce ballast (audio)
: a heavy substance (such as rocks or water) placed in such a way as to improve stability and control (as of the draft of a ship or the buoyancy of a balloon or submarine)
tossed several tons of ballast overboard
: something that gives stability (as in character or conduct)
She provided the ballast we needed during stressful times.
: gravel or broken stone laid in a railroad bed or used in making concrete
: a device used to provide the starting voltage or to stabilize the current in a circuit (as of a fluorescent lamp)


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ballasted; ballasting; ballasts

transitive verb

: to steady or equip with or as if with ballast
They ballast the canoe with large rocks.
: to fill in (something, such as a railroad bed) with ballast (see ballast entry 1 sense 3)
in ballast
of a ship : having only ballast for a load

Examples of ballast in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Without that ballast, corporate interests can stymie major economic reforms and the far Left is able to dictate social policies. Heather Wilhelm, National Review, 9 Nov. 2023 Everyone lined up in a row, rushed to one side, then the other, back and forth, to tip the Titan and dislodge the ballast, the way someone might rock a vending machine to free a candy bar stuck on a spindle. John Branch,, 2 July 2023 Of course, to anyone worried about the implications of too-big-to-fail institutions getting bigger, this acquisition adds roughly $200 billion of ballast to the argument. Heather Landy, Quartz, 1 May 2023 The team signed numerous players to contracts worth between $10 million and $20 million annually in recent seasons, believing that, at worst, the players could be enticing trade ballast. Andrew Greif, Los Angeles Times, 26 Apr. 2023 These more serious subplots sometimes feel less like real narratives than dutiful moral ballast. Lili Loofbourow, Washington Post, 27 Oct. 2023 The return next year of Colorado, a former member of the Big Eight (the forerunner of the Big 12), will restore some historical ballast to the conference, which is adding eight teams this season and next. Billy Witz, New York Times, 1 Sep. 2023 The majority of that funding will go to infrastructure such as the tracks, switches, ballast and overhead wire that keep trains moving at high speeds, as well as plans to replace swaths of the railroad’s train fleet. Ted Mann, WSJ, 9 Oct. 2023 Mayer shrewdly understood his role: offering ballast and tasteful guitar levitations, dressing understatedly, careful not to overshadow Ace, just another gifted player in a tight but loose band. Jeff Weiss, Spin, 21 Aug. 2023
The reopening timeline, the COVID-19 surcharge—even the free sandbags the city recently offered to restaurants, to help ballast their outdoor dining structures—all, in the end, place the burden of financial support on individuals, and individual transactions. Helen Rosner, The New Yorker, 12 Oct. 2020 Longtermists have a remarkably weak appreciation for the zigzags and convulsions of recent history, which MacAskill sometimes blunders into to try and make or ballast a point. Alexander Zaitchik, The New Republic, 24 Oct. 2022 Mottley had reduced the public work force and raised all sorts of taxes to ballast the government’s balance sheet. Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica, 27 July 2022 The species, which grows to 6 feet long and weighs up to 220 pounds, was prized for its swim bladder, or maw, an organ that helps ballast the animal. Adam Elder, Wired, 16 Apr. 2020 Amid that debate, the role of the editorial board is to provide Times readers with a long-range view formed not by one person’s expertise and experience but ballasted by certain institutional values that have evolved across more than 150 years. New York Times, 13 Jan. 2020 Some of that freshness comes from the cast, a cornucopia of effervescent young talent ballasted by a handful of doughty old-timers. New York Times, 23 Dec. 2019 Gillis said the new bridge will be ballasted, rather than fixed. Mary Wisniewski,, 21 Aug. 2019 Roughly a third of the structure is submerged and ballasted by 5,000 tons of iron ore. Michael J. Coren, Quartz, 22 June 2019 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'ballast.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



probably from Low German, of Scandinavian origin; akin to Danish & Swedish barlast ballast; perhaps akin to Old English bær bare & to Old English hlæst load, hladan to load — more at lade


derivative of ballast entry 1

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1538, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of ballast was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near ballast

Cite this Entry

“Ballast.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
bal·​last ˈbal-əst How to pronounce ballast (audio)
: heavy material used especially to make a ship steady or to control the rising of a balloon
: gravel or broken stone laid in a foundation for a railroad or used in making concrete


2 of 2 verb
: to provide with ballast
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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