wa·​ter·​shed | \ ˈwȯ-tər-ˌshed How to pronounce watershed (audio) , ˈwä-\

Definition of watershed

1 : a crucial dividing point, line, or factor : turning point
2a : a region or area bounded peripherally by a divide and draining ultimately to a particular watercourse or body of water

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Other Words from watershed

watershed adjective

Watershed Has Geographic Origins

Opinion on the literal geographic meaning of "watershed" is divided. On one side of the debate are those who think the word can only refer to a ridge of land separating rivers and streams flowing in one direction from those flowing in the opposite direction. That's the term's original meaning, one probably borrowed in the translation of the German Wasserscheide. On the other side of the argument are those who think "watershed" can also apply to the area through which such divided water flows. The latter sense is now far more common in America, but most Americans have apparently decided to leave the quarrel to geologists and geographers while they use the term in its figurative sense, "turning point."

Examples of watershed in a Sentence

The show will not air until after the nine o'clock watershed. a watershed moment in her life came when she inherited a reasonable sum of money and was able to start her own coffee shop

Recent Examples on the Web

Natural barriers, buffer zones, and vegetative cover protect ditches and streams and contribute to healthy watersheds. The Editors Of Organic Life, Good Housekeeping, "Here's Why Real Christmas Trees Are Better For The Environment," 29 Nov. 2017 All told, Masterpiece Cakeshop is nowhere near the watershed ruling that many were hoping for or fearing. Cristian Farias, Daily Intelligencer, "Justice Kennedy Has His Cake and Eats It Too in Gay Wedding Case," 1 June 2018 His order allocates another $96 million for forest thinning and watershed management. Adam Ashton, sacbee, "California's budget surplus is billions bigger than expected. Will Jerry Brown spend it? | The Sacramento Bee," 11 May 2018 The announcement, on Sept. 12, raised U.S. hopes of a watershed in the Vatican’s approach. Francis X. Rocca, WSJ, "‘It Will Cause a Scandal.’ The Pope and a Trusted U.S. Cardinal Clash Over Sex-Abuse Crisis," 14 Feb. 2019 Some of those projects involve voluntary home buyouts, storm repair and subdivision drainage improvement watersheds. Jane Stueckemann, Houston Chronicle, "Meetings set in northwest Harris County on proposed $2.5 billion flood infrastructure bond project," 11 June 2018 Michigan has focused on continued improvements at the Detroit Waste Water Treatment Plant and improved farming practices in the River Raisin and portions of the Maumee watershed in southeasternmost Michigan. Keith Matheny, Detroit Free Press, "Study: After spending billions, fertilizer runoff feeding Lake Erie algae unchanged," 26 Apr. 2018 The bill, House Bill 2203, started as a proposal about wildlands and watersheds. Rachel Leingang, azcentral, "Bill would dismantle Board of Regents, change Arizona's university system," 20 Mar. 2018 This follows a wild spring that brought flood-level flows, at times dangerous, in many watersheds, and then cold weather across the Sierra for much of April. Tom Stienstra, San Francisco Chronicle, "Rafters launch stellar season for rivers, water sports," 13 May 2018

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

1764, in the meaning defined at sense 2b

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Statistics for watershed

Last Updated

7 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for watershed

The first known use of watershed was in 1764

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English Language Learners Definition of watershed

: a time when an important change happens
: a line of hills or mountains from which rivers drain : a ridge between two rivers
chiefly US : the area of land that includes a particular river or lake and all the rivers, streams, etc., that flow into it


wa·​ter·​shed | \ ˈwȯ-tər-ˌshed How to pronounce watershed (audio) , ˈwä-\

Kids Definition of watershed

1 : a dividing ridge (as a mountain range) separating one drainage area from others
2 : the whole area that drains into a lake or river

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