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

These elements help create riparian zones, which are areas where land interacts with waterways to support healthy habitats and watersheds. Melanie Feuk, Houston Chronicle, "Kuykendahl basin to blend nature with flood reduction efforts," 6 Sep. 2019 Grow sites on public lands also compromise California’s water supply, poisoning watersheds and diverting flows from springs and streams. Los Angeles Times, "Illegal cannabis farms still scarring public lands, two years after Prop. 64," 29 Aug. 2019 The Amazon rainforest is 2 million square miles, a span that vastly eclipses the size of this glacial watershed. Matt Simon, WIRED, "Melting Glaciers Are Helping Capture Carbon," 19 Aug. 2019 Denver Water is fortunate to have watersheds that are in great health, consisting of more remote mountain sites that provide us with high-quality snow runoff. Bruce Finley, The Denver Post, "Scientists discover it’s “raining plastic” from metro Denver to high in Rocky Mountain National Park," 16 Aug. 2019 Bob Paisley's nine years as Liverpool manager represented a watershed period for the club. SI.com, "Bob Paisley: Liverpool's Humble Genius' All-Time Greatest XI," 5 Aug. 2019 This has been shown to be happening in other watersheds, though there is not yet conclusive evidence from the Amazon. Clearances also lead to local drying. The Economist, "The Amazon is approaching an irreversible tipping point," 1 Aug. 2019 Environmentalists fear waste from the mines could contaminate the area’s watersheds. Deanna Weniger, Twin Cities, "St. Paul team swims and paddles Boundary Waters in mine protest," 27 July 2019 For the past 45 years, a huge lawsuit has remained unresolved as to how to allocate water rights on Arizona’s rivers and watersheds. Alison Steinbach, azcentral, "Recent UA study confirms groundwater pumping is drying up Arizona rivers'," 21 July 2019

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

13 Sep 2019

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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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Comments on watershed

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


to make a temporary encampment

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