scup·per | \ˈskə-pər \

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


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

Keep scrolling for more

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

The delay threatens to scupper what would be Liverpool's second lucrative signing of the summer as France boss Didier Deschamps wants all transfer business settled by the end of the week., "Liverpool's £53m Deal for Lyon's Nabil Fekir Cast Into Doubt After Lingering Injury Concerns," 9 June 2018 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

The Eagles' last minute comeback scuppered the Reds' title chances and left Luis Suarez in tears at the final whistle., "Liverpool Faces Persistent Thorn Crystal Palace as Top-Four Race Winds Down," 30 Mar. 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 As argued by Manchester City expert Sam Lee, Sarri's appointment as Chelsea boss could potentially scupper Jorginho's move to City., "Chelsea Ready to Derail Napoli Star's Move to Man City & End Agonising Wait for New Manager," 9 July 2018 If that is the case for officials in Bavaria, that would likely scupper Chelsea's chances of landing Higuaín this summer., "Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski Reveals He 'Doesn't Know' Future Plans Amid Juventus Links," 25 June 2018 Kenji Fujimori, a congressman from the opposition Popular Force party, abstained along with nine others, which scuppered the impeachment. The Economist, "The short unhappy presidency of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski," 22 Mar. 2018 City were scuppered in their efforts to sign Mahrez during the last January transfer window but have finally now landed their man on a five-year contract., "Man City Complete Club Record Signing of Leicester Winger Riyad Mahrez on 5-Year Deal," 10 July 2018 Also in 2007, Bain Capital, the U.S. networking company 3com, and Huawei proposed a multibillion-dollar deal, only to be scuppered by U.S. officials over security concerns. Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic, "How Bad Is Facebook’s New China Problem?," 6 June 2018 However, this latest injury is expected to rule Antonio out for the remained of the season and will scupper his outside chance of booking his spot on the plane to Russia., "West Ham Star Ruled​ Out for the Rest of the Season After Suffering Injury in Saints Win," 2 Apr. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about scupper

Listen to Our Podcast about scupper

Dictionary Entries near scupper






scupper pipe


Statistics for scupper

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for scupper

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for scupper



English Language Learners Definition of scupper

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: 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)

: to cause (something) to stop or fail

More from Merriam-Webster on scupper

See words that rhyme with scupper

Comments on scupper

What made you want to look up scupper? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a state of commotion or excitement

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Roman Mythology Quiz

  • the-triumph-of-venus-by-alessandro-magnasco
  • Boreal comes from the name of the ancient Greek god of which wind?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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