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 In early 1995, Amazon was less than a year old, Apple was in the doldrums, Microsoft had yet to launch Windows 95, and almost no one had a mobile phone. Steven Levy, Wired, "A 25-Year-Old Bet Comes Due: Has Tech Destroyed Society?," 5 Jan. 2021 These are the doldrums of bird season, when there are fewer shots to be made on educated greenheads and roosters. Joe Genzel, Outdoor Life, "Struggling to Hit Birds? Try This Midseason Shotgun Tune-Up," 29 Oct. 2020 Yet his September surge measured up against any year - 10 home runs, a .366 average and a 1.294 OPS that lifted the Indians out of the doldrums and into nine wins in their final 11 games to claim the AL Central title. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "Jose Abreu becomes first White Sox since Frank Thomas to win American League MVP," 12 Nov. 2020 But the reality is that more government spending is likely to keep the dollar in the doldrums - no matter what happens with America's foreign policy. Paul R. La Monica, CNN, "The US dollar will remain weak no matter who wins the presidency," 3 Nov. 2020 And with many Americans minimizing travel, hotel occupancy could be in the doldrums for some time. Paul Davidson, USA TODAY, "Who needs office buildings? As home building surges, plans for shops, offices, hotels vanish: Exclusive," 28 Oct. 2020 For those looking to liven up their coffee intake and bust out of the caffeine doldrums, here are seven different types of coffee drinks and where to find them around Dallas. Claire Ballor, Dallas News, "7 Dallas coffee drinks that will switch up your caffeine routine," 20 Oct. 2020 The 49ers pulled a community out of the doldrums, with big personalities, aesthetically pleasing football and a sheen of excellence. Ann Killion,, "For 49ers fans, earning the label of ‘faithful’ isn’t easy," 16 Oct. 2020 Cuomo foundered in the doldrums of an apparent political and personal dead end. Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker, "Andrew Cuomo, the King of New York," 12 Oct. 2020

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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The first known use of doldrums was in 1765

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Last Updated

14 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Doldrums.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jan. 2021.

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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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