scut·​tle·​butt ˈskə-tᵊl-ˌbət How to pronounce scuttlebutt (audio)
: a cask on shipboard to contain fresh water for a day's use
: a drinking fountain on a ship or at a naval or marine installation

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Scuttlebutt, the Water Cooler Talk of 19th Century Seafarers

When office workers catch up on the latest scuttlebutt around the water cooler, they are continuing a long-standing tradition that probably also occurred on the sailing ships of yore. Back in the early 1800s, the cask containing a ship's daily supply of fresh water was called a scuttlebutt (from the verb scuttle meaning "to cut a hole through" and the noun butt, "cask"); that name was later applied to a drinking fountain on a ship or at a naval installation. In time, the term for the water source was also applied to the gossip and rumors generated around it, and the latest chatter has been called "scuttlebutt" ever since.

Examples of scuttlebutt in a Sentence

according to scuttlebutt in the financial markets, the company will be downsizing soon
Recent Examples on the Web With that attitude in mind, here are my projections for who and what will be nominated in the Oscars’ top six races, informed by industry scuttlebutt as well as recent nominations from the Screen Actors Guild, Producers Guild of America and Directors Guild of America. New York Times, 2 Feb. 2022 Is the scuttlebutt around league circles suggesting that the scouting department couldn’t find a star with a telescope? Greg Moore, The Arizona Republic, 23 Feb. 2023 Amid this turmoil, markets understandably loved the BOE’s intervention, and the scuttlebutt is that the central bank moved in part because big British pension funds and financial institutions were caught on the wrong side of these rapid shifts in market prices. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 28 Sep. 2022 Such was the scuttlebutt ahead of Tuesday’s 80th annual Golden Globes. Vulture, 11 Jan. 2023 There's scuttlebutt that perhaps Treasury and IRS will issue a notice or two before 2023. Tax Notes Staff, Forbes, 5 Oct. 2022 The scuttlebutt among journalists is that organizations know stuff about roster moves and partnership status around 2023, while players are kept almost completely in the dark. Mikhail Klimentov, Washington Post, 19 Sep. 2022 This movie stands head and subzero-temp-cold shoulders above its peers in terms of salacious scuttlebutt, however. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 5 Sep. 2022 Instead, for the first time in nearly a decade, the scuttlebutt was about record demand, full schedules, and pruning client lists as the need for travel advisers balloons. Christopher Muther,, 24 Aug. 2022 See More

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

Word History


alteration of scuttled butt butt with a hole cut into it

First Known Use

circa 1805, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of scuttlebutt was circa 1805


Dictionary Entries Near scuttlebutt

Cite this Entry

“Scuttlebutt.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


scut·​tle·​butt ˈskət-ᵊl-ˌbət How to pronounce scuttlebutt (audio)
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