Definition of albatross in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈalbəˌtrôs/

noun (plural albatrosses)

Image of albatross
1A very large oceanic bird related to the shearwaters, with long narrow wings. Albatrosses, some species of which have wingspans greater than 10 feet (3.3 m), are found mainly in the southern oceans, with three kinds in the North Pacific.
  • Genera Diomedea and Phoebetria, family Diomedeidae: several species, including the sooty albatross (P. fusca), Laysan albatross (D. immutablis), and wandering albatross (D. exulans).
Example sentences
  • A birdwatcher 65 million years ago could have seen relatives of today's loons, geese and ducks, albatrosses and petrels, and gulls and shorebirds, and possibly other familiar birds as well.
  • It's penguins, albatrosses, caracaras, steamer ducks and a couple of endemic small jobs you've come for.
  • The black frigatebirds, with their sharply angled wings, ride rising thermals, whereas the white albatrosses, with their long narrow wings, catch a lift on a cold gale.
1.1A source of frustration or guilt; an encumbrance (in allusion to Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner): an albatross of a marriage
More example sentences
  • Queen Noor of Jordan is backing an albatross aptly named The Ancient Mariner.
  • Instead, they see it as a problem, as a liability, as an albatross around our financial necks.
  • However, the average student, in order simply to meet the expense of university education - even with parental support - is still burdened by the albatross of a £12,000 debt on leaving.
2 Golf another term for double eagle.
Example sentences
  • In 2002, there were four albatrosses on the PGA Tour, versus 40 holes-in-one.
  • In the modified stableford format, an albatross is worth eight points, an eagle five and a birdie two, while a par is worth nothing and players lose one point for a bogey and two for multiple bogeys.
  • Thanks to his albatross and some solid golf thereafter he finished three under.


Late 17th century: alteration (influenced by Latin albus 'white') of 16th-century alcatras, applied to various seabirds including the frigate bird and pelican, from Spanish and Portuguese alcatraz, from Arabic al-ġaṭṭās 'the diver'.

  • The spelling of albatross was influenced by Latin albus, ‘white’. The large white seabird was originally called the alcatras, a name which was also applied to other water birds such as the pelican (who gave their name to the prison-island of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay) and came from Spanish and Portuguese alcatraz, from Arabic al-gattās ‘the diver’. In golf an albatross is a score of three under par at a hole ( see bird). Albatross sometimes carries with it an idea of misfortune and burdensome guilt: this alludes to Coleridge's Ancient Mariner (1798), in which an albatross is shot by the mariner, bringing disaster on the rest of the crew and long-lasting guilt to him.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: al·ba·tross

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