scup·​per | \ ˈskə-pər How to pronounce scupper (audio) \

Definition of scupper

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : an opening cut through the bulwarks of a ship so that water falling on deck may flow overboard
2 : an opening in the wall of a building through which water can drain from a floor or flat roof


scuppered; scuppering; scuppers

Definition of scupper (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

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

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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


The latest information could scupper the peace talks.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Nissan’s investors directed most of their ire at Jean-Dominique Senard, Renault’s chairman, who has pushed for a full merger with Nissan and had threatened to scupper changes to its governance (Renault owns 43% of Nissan). The Economist, "Business this week," 29 June 2019 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, "Why You Should Always Clear Snow Off Your Roof," 19 Jan. 2018 And knitting needles can roll on deck and out the scuppers. Andrea Sachs,, "On a Windjammer cruise in Maine, passengers knit a seaworthy yarn," 26 Oct. 2017 The towering Dupont Circle fountain is tilting, its huge top basin inching off-kilter and slowly spoiling the flow from its three scuppers. Steve Hendrix, Washington Post, "Where’s the water? In the nation’s capital, dry fountains mar the landscape.," 9 July 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Allies looking for new trade deals with America, including post-Brexit Britain, will worry that a presidential tweet could scupper it after it has been signed. The Economist, "America is deploying a new economic arsenal to assert its power," 6 June 2019 Imminent Real Madrid signing Kepa Arrizabalaga could see his £20m switch scuppered due to a metatarsal injury that will rule him out for three months., "Report: Real Madrid's Move for GK Kepa Arrizabalaga on Hold Over Toe Injury," 9 Jan. 2018 The two clubs previously agreed a fee of €18m, however a move was scuppered at the last minute, with Sporting CP and agent Jorge Mendes blaming each other for the breakdown., "Sporting CP 'File Complaint' to FIFA Over Transfer of Star Goalkeeper Rui Patricio to Wolves," 7 July 2018 Pogba inspired a sensational half performance - scoring twice before Chris Smalling sealed a win for the Red Devils late on, scuppering City's hopes of winning the Premier League title against their rivals., "Man Utd Ace Paul Pogba Claims Michael Carrick's Advice Inspired His Stunning Brace Against Man City," 8 Apr. 2018 May’s government is seeking to put up a united front after months of infighting almost scuppered negotiations and raised questions about her ability to lead the country., "May Insists on 'Bespoke' Trade Deal in Face of EU's Rebuttal," 19 Dec. 2017 Cristiano Ronaldo's move to Juventus could scupper the transfer plans of Chelsea and Arsenal this summer., "Cristiano Ronaldo's Juventus Transfer Could Ruin Arsenal & Chelsea's Plans to Sign WC Breakout Star," 13 July 2018 Tottenham's plans to sign 22-year-old winger Anthony Martial have appeared to be scuppered, with the Manchester Evening News reporting that United are unwilling to part company with Martial., "Tottenham Fans React as New Report Provides Update on Anthony Martial's Man Utd Future," 2 July 2018 Failure to do so means that the NATO invitation is rescinded and the EU accession process is scuppered. Washington Post, "AP Explains: What the Greek-Macedonian name deal is about," 13 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'scupper.' 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 scupper


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1899, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for scupper


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


origin unknown

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Dictionary Entries near scupper






scupper pipe


Statistics for scupper

Last Updated

13 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for scupper

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

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More Definitions for scupper



English Language Learners Definition of scupper

 (Entry 1 of 2)

technical : a hole in the side of a boat that allows water to drain from the deck



English Language Learners Definition of scupper (Entry 2 of 2)

British : to cause (something) to stop or fail

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with scupper

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