1 of 2


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


2 of 2


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.

Example Sentences

Verb The latest information could scupper the peace talks.
Recent Examples on the Web
Some kayaks have a special scupper to accommodate a side-imaging transducer. Ric Burnley, Field & Stream, 3 May 2023 The transducer has to fit in a scupper and the cable should be easy to route to the display. Ric Burnley, Field & Stream, 3 May 2023 But as a high-interest rate environment proliferates, this further scuppers IPOs and M&A activity for the banks and puts further pressure on institutions struggling to operate. - Powering A Personal Wealth Movement, Forbes, 3 May 2023 Spa Terrace Behind a hot tub replete with waterfall scuppers lies some of the property’s copious natural ledge rock. Owen Holmes, House Beautiful, 23 Mar. 2023 Biden's hopes of reviving a nuclear deal with Iran may already be on the rocks if Tehran hardliners scupper dialogue. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 14 Apr. 2021 To best avoid ice dams, IBHS has created safety guidelines to follow: Keep drains, scuppers, gutters, and downspouts clear of debris. Madison Alcedo, Country Living, 19 Jan. 2018 And knitting needles can roll on deck and out the scuppers. Andrea Sachs,, 26 Oct. 2017
The plan to have Parrish throw out the first pitch was scuppered by rain, but Parrish spent more than an hour signing autographs and taking pictures with fans. Zach Osterman, The Indianapolis Star, 17 May 2023 Just as companies remove metadata from images that could reveal where and when they are taken, Zittrain says tech firms could scupper facial recognition algorithms by modifying images in ways that are imperceptible to the human eye using adversarial machine learning techniques. Will Knight, Wired, 4 Oct. 2021 World powers were set to resume high level talks in Vienna on Tuesday focused on bringing the United States back into the nuclear deal with Iran, in their first session since comments surfaced from the Iranian foreign minister alleging that Russia was trying to scupper the pact. David Rising, Star Tribune, 27 Apr. 2021 Suddenly, the lieutenant commander was thrust into making frantic preparations, his retirement plans scuppered. Choe Sang-hun, New York Times, 28 Apr. 2023 His threat is best understood in the context of McCarthy's role as the ex-President's chief protector on Capitol Hill, after helping to scupper an independent commission into the worst attack on US democracy in modern history and joining the whitewash of what happened. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 2 Sep. 2021 Hindenburg Research’s allegations of fraud against India’s Adani Group may have scuppered another of the conglomerate’s mega projects. Mimansa Verma, Quartz, 20 Mar. 2023 Plenty of pitfalls could scupper his second term. Tom Mctague, The Atlantic, 24 Apr. 2022 If he's defeated, that would normally scupper any thought of a political comeback. Harold Maass, The Week, 24 Mar. 2023 See More

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 6 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


: an opening above the upper deck in the side of a boat through which water drains overboard
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!