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

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 Last year at this time, my favorite cookbooks had some pretty distinct themes, placing high value on simplicity and sanity, while occasionally being peppered with something fun to help break out of the doldrums. Joe Ray, Wired, 17 Dec. 2021 There’s one enticement that withstands a long-haul life in the burbs and seems to grow more intense as time passes: the need for a libido-quenching, doldrums-busting, life-affirming affair. Allison P. Davis, Vulture, 11 Dec. 2021 In tapping Parag Agrawal to lead Twitter through its economic, technological, and political doldrums, Twitter’s board is hoping an experienced insider with deep ties to co-founder and outgoing CEO Jack Dorsey can reinvigorate the company. Jacob Carpenter, Fortune, 30 Nov. 2021 The White House still contends the size of the American Rescue Plan was necessary to bring the economy back from its pandemic doldrums. Kevin Liptak, CNN, 11 Nov. 2021 Popovich called a timeout with 8:26 to go in the first quarter, then unleashed a full-court press aimed to shake his team out of its early doldrums. San Antonio Express-News, 21 Oct. 2021 Despite a first-of-its-kind lineup stacked with power hitters intended to awaken the Red Sox from their offensive doldrums, the team appeared determined to sputter its way out of contention in the waning days of the season., 1 Oct. 2021 The same can be said of the seven other distinctively transfixing models who joined Lee at the Vogue offices for this celebratory shoot, staged as New York City began shaking off its pandemic doldrums. Maya Singer, Vogue, 5 Aug. 2021 With his political hopes seemingly in the doldrums, Mr. Isakson received a boost from Zell Miller, by then the governor, who in late 1996 appointed him chairman of the state’s board of education. Washington Post, 19 Dec. 2021

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 2022

Cite this Entry

“Doldrums.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jan. 2022.

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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 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

More from Merriam-Webster on doldrums

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


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