March 02, 2012
- albatross (noun)
- What does it mean?
- 1 : any of a family (Diomedeidae) of large web-footed sea birds that have large slender wings, are excellent gliders, include the largest seabirds2 a : something that causes persistent deep concern or anxiety b : something that greatly hinders accomplishment : encumbrance
- How do you use it?
- Kristie's poor marks in chemistry were proving to be an albatross in her effort to be accepted in the university's pre-med program.
- Are you a word wiz?
The albatross is a magnificent seabird known for its graceful way of gliding, yet its name has given rise to some very negative figurative meanings. Which of these is the origin of those negative meanings of "albatross"?Imagine how difficult it would be to get around with a huge bird tied around your neck. That was the predicament of a sailor in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 1798 poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. In the poem, an old sailor --the Ancient Mariner-- relates the story of how, during a sea voyage, he shot an albatross that had been accompanying the ship. The voyage was thereafter beset with disasters. His shipmates punished him by tying the bird's carcass around his neck. The Mariner was finally freed from his burden in the moment that he recognized the beauty of the creatures in the sea.