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 And please don't sugarcoat scuttlebutt that is making your company look bad. Mike Maynard, Forbes, 29 Mar. 2024 More than this, the scuttlebutt method emphasizes using available research regarding the economy and industry-related trends as a way to better understand the success trajectory of a business. Jacob Wolinsky, Forbes, 1 Mar. 2024 Dawson Renaud/Courtesy Sur Lie A bustling hospitality scene as hot as ever: Portland The big scuttlebutt in Portland these days? Todd Plummer, Condé Nast Traveler, 31 Jan. 2024 That means the last missing piece in the Oscar puzzle is a host — there’s been a lot of scuttlebutt but no formal movement on a potential emcee for the show after Jimmy Kimmel last held the job earlier this year. Mikey O'Connell, The Hollywood Reporter, 17 Oct. 2023 See all Example Sentences for scuttlebutt 

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 21 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


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