plural noun

dol·​drums ˈdōl-drəmz How to pronounce doldrums (audio) ˈdäl- How to pronounce doldrums (audio)
: a spell of listlessness or despondency
fighting off the winter doldrums
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
: a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or slump
out of the economic doldrums

Did you know?

Almost 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 early-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 Adding to the doldrums, the Nasdaq Composite lost 0.6%. - Powering A Personal Wealth Movement, Forbes, 20 Feb. 2023 Morgan Stanley just dropped its second-quarter earnings, confirming that Wall Street-style businesses like investment banking and trading are still in the doldrums. WSJ, 18 July 2023 That call has gone largely unheeded—a big reason why the country’s housing market remains in the doldrums. Rebecca Feng and Cao Li, WSJ, 21 Feb. 2023 All of that merely is the game before the game, filling the August doldrums. Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel, 20 Aug. 2022 The central bank has kept interest rates at zero or in minus territory for years to wrest Japan out of its economic doldrums. Yuri Kageyama, ajc, 3 Apr. 2023 America's downtowns are in the doldrums. Rob Wile, NBC News, 1 Apr. 2023 From Horsegirl and Alvvays’ walls of vintage-alt sound to Rosalía’s endlessly morphing tracks to Tedeschi Trucks’ ambitious response to Layla to Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood busting out their versions of jams with the Smile, the year’s most enthralling records shook off the Covid doldrums. Rolling Stone, 27 Dec. 2022 The housing market is deep in the doldrums. Quartz, 27 Oct. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'doldrums.' 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 akin to Old English dol foolish

First Known Use

1765, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of doldrums was in 1765


Dictionary Entries Near doldrums

Cite this Entry

“Doldrums.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


noun plural
dol·​drums ˈdōl-drəmz How to pronounce doldrums (audio) ˈdäl- How to pronounce doldrums (audio)
: a spell of low spirits
: a part of the ocean near the equator known for its calms
: a state in which nothing seems to be going on
business is in the doldrums

More from Merriam-Webster on doldrums

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