1 a : a dividing ridge between drainage areas
b : a region or area bounded peripherally by a divide and draining ultimately to a particular watercourse or body of water
2 : a crucial dividing point, line, or factor : turning point
"This year marked a watershed for contemporary classical music in the city. No greater proof was the Ear Taxi Festival, a Chicago-centric marathon of new music performance that, for six heady days in October, brought together some 500 local musicians to present roughly 100 recent classical works...." — John von Rhein, The Chicago Tribune, 22 Dec. 2016
Did You Know?
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."
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Test Your Vocabulary
Unscramble the letters to create a word for an event or development that marks a turning point: RNAMDLKA.VIEW THE ANSWER
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