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albatross Line breaks: al¦ba|tross
Pronunciation: /ˈalbətrɒs/

Definition of albatross in English:

noun (plural albatrosses)

Image of albatross
1A very large, chiefly white oceanic bird with long, narrow wings, found mainly in the southern oceans.
  • Family Diomedeidae: genera Diomedea and Phoebetria
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.

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