plural noun
dol·​drums | \ˈdōl-drəmz, ˈdäl-, 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

Despite the Hong Kong dollar’s doldrums, few expect the city to drop the currency’s long-running dollar link. Saumya Vaishampayan, WSJ, "The Weakest Link: Hong Kong Dollar Hits Trading-Band Floor," 12 Apr. 2018 When rules on margin borrowing were tightened in mid-2015—and everyone suddenly remembered that the real economy was still in the doldrums—most of those gains evaporated. Nathaniel Taplin, WSJ, "A Stock Market Crash With Chinese Characteristics," 9 July 2018 The team that charged ahead to 73 wins in the 2015-16 campaign, that won 67 games in Durant’s debut season en route to a 16-1 playoff run, couldn’t decide how to handle the doldrums of another long season. Sam Amick, USA TODAY, "It's a dynasty: Warriors remain kings of NBA after sweep of Cavaliers," 8 June 2018 Tigers fans of a certain age might remember 2006, when the team unexpectedly emerged from the doldrums to win the AL pennant. Kirkland Crawford, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Tigers embracing #RallyGoose, and it seems to be working," 31 May 2018 But there's one offensive move coach Stan Van Gundy plans to make to shake his club from its doldrums: Put the ball in Luke Kennard's hands more often. Dana Gauruder, Detroit Free Press, "Stan Van Gundy: Detroit Pistons to expand Luke Kennard's role," 20 Jan. 2018 And the economy, after years of doldrums, is finally showing signs of recovery, with growth projected by the IMF at 5.2% this year. Yaroslav Trofimov, WSJ, "In Sisi’s Second Term, Opening or More Repression?," 26 Apr. 2018 And not by accident, its stock, long in the doldrums, went on a tear as the New Microsoft emerged. Kevin Werbach,, "When crises come, ethically challenged firms such as Uber are most vulnerable, Wharton prof says," 16 Apr. 2018 But the most underrated feature—and a huge helping-hand to vegetarians during the winter doldrums is that your Instant Pot can turn an intimidating squash, root, or tuber from rock-solid to approachable and sliceable. Sarah Jampel, Bon Appetit, "This Is the Most Underrated Instant Pot Feature," 22 Feb. 2018

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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dole chaser

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The first known use of doldrums was in 1765

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More Definitions for doldrums



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, 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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More from Merriam-Webster on doldrums

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for doldrums

Spanish Central: Translation of doldrums

Nglish: Translation of doldrums for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about doldrums

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to express warning or disapproval

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