plural noun
dol·​drums | \ ˈdōl-drəmz How to pronounce doldrums (audio) , ˈdäl- How to pronounce doldrums (audio) , ˈdȯl- \

Definition of doldrums

1 : a spell of listlessness or despondency fighting off the winter doldrums
2 often capitalized, oceanography : a part of the ocean near the equator abounding in calms (see calm entry 1 sense 1b), squalls, and light shifting winds
3 : a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or slump out of the economic doldrums

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Did You Know?

Everyone gets the doldrums - a feeling of low spirits and lack of energy - every once in a while. The doldrums experienced by sailors, however, are usually of a different variety. In the mid-19th century, the word once reserved for a feeling of despondency came to be applied to certain tropical regions of the ocean marked by the absence of strong winds. Sailing vessels, reliant on wind propulsion, struggled to make headway in these regions, leading to long, arduous journeys. The exact etymology of doldrums is not certain, though it is believed to be related to the Old English dol, meaning "foolish" - a history it shares with our adjective "dull."

Examples of doldrums in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web July 15 Hedge funds have been in the doldrums and face mounting pressure to justify their fees. Washington Post, "Why Machine Learning Hasn’t Made Investors Smarter," 24 Sep. 2019 The distraction combined with August doldrums damped trading volume, with U.S. stocks on pace for the second lowest trading volume of the year. Erin Roman,, "Everything You Need to Know This Morning From Daybreak (Podcast)," 21 Aug. 2017 The grumbling could increase if Kelly, who turned 58 last week, is unable to snap Notre Dame out of its post-Michigan doldrums. Mike Berardino, Indianapolis Star, "Where does Notre Dame football go from here? Fighting Irish search for accountability," 29 Oct. 2019 In fairness, this team has far too much talent, and young talent at that, to be mired in the doldrums for too long. Kellen Becoats,, "It’s Time to Start Paying Attention to the New York Liberty," 17 June 2019 With Germany’s economy in the doldrums, a poll of German executives found that business confidence had dropped to levels last seen in 2009, during the financial crisis. The Economist, "Business this week," 31 Aug. 2019 July brought some zip to a Portland area housing market that had been in the doldrums relative to the past few years, but the rally might prove short-lived., "Portland metro home sales pick up in July as mortgage rates tumble," 14 Aug. 2019 The movie came out in August (then viewed as the doldrums of the blockbuster season) and advertised itself with a poster that listed the five human senses and hinted at a sixth that involved a little boy and was, well, really spooky. David Sims, The Atlantic, "How The Sixth Sense Conquered Hollywood in 1999," 6 Aug. 2019 And that is the real story from Detroit as the campaign enters the August doldrums. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "The Democratic Party Is Culling the Field Too Soon," 1 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'doldrums.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of doldrums

1765, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for doldrums

probably akin to Old English dol foolish

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Time Traveler for doldrums

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The first known use of doldrums was in 1765

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Last Updated

10 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Doldrums.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 12 December 2019.

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More Definitions for doldrums


How to pronounce doldrums (audio) How to pronounce doldrums (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of doldrums

: a state or period of sadness or depression
: a state or period in which there is no activity or improvement


noun plural
dol·​drums | \ ˈdōl-drəmz How to pronounce doldrums (audio) , ˈdäl-, ˈdȯl- \

Kids Definition of doldrums

1 : a spell of sadness I tried to cheer her of her doldrums.
2 : a period of no activity or improvement Her business was in the doldrums.
3 : a part of the ocean near the equator known for its calms

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a period of high artistic development

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