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scup·​per ˈskə-pər How to pronounce scupper (audio)
: an opening cut through the bulwarks of a ship so that water falling on deck may flow overboard
: an opening in the wall of a building through which water can drain from a floor or flat roof


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scuppered; scuppering; scuppers

transitive verb

chiefly British
: to defeat or put an end to : do in sense 1a

Did you know?

Scupper Has Military Origins

All efforts to figure out where this verb came from have been defeated, including attempts to connect it to the noun scupper, a 500-year-old word for a drain opening in the side of a ship. (One conjecture, that the blood of shipboard battle was "scuppered" when it was washed down the scuppers, unfortunately lacks backing in the form of any actual evidence of the verb used this way.) All we know for sure is that scupper meant "to ambush and massacre" in 19th-century military slang. Then, just before the century turned, it found its place in a magazine story in the sense of simply "doing (someone) in." The more common modern application to things rather than people being done in or defeated didn't appear until a couple of decades into the 20th century.

Examples of scupper in a Sentence

Verb The latest information could scupper the peace talks.
Recent Examples on the Web
The hull is sealed, except for a few small holes called scuppers that act as drains for any water that does find its way onto the deck. Chantae Reden, Popular Mechanics, 31 May 2023 Without a transducer scupper or pod, the best option is to use a transducer arm. Ric Burnley, Field & Stream, 3 May 2023
Unseasonably rainy weather nearly scuppered these plans. Melanie Goodfellow, Deadline, 17 July 2024 The band kept its own touring bubble and shunned parties to avoid scuppering any live dates with a positive test. Thomas Smith, Billboard, 12 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for scupper 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'scupper.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English skopper- (in compounds), perhaps from Anglo-French *escopoir, from escopir to spit out


origin unknown

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1899, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of scupper was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near scupper

Cite this Entry

“Scupper.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


: an opening above the upper deck in the side of a boat through which water drains overboard
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