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  1. Nautical.
    1. Also called hatchway.an opening, usually rectangular, in the deck through which passengers can pass, cargo can be loaded or unloaded, etc.
    2. the cover over such an opening.
  2. an opening that serves as a doorway or window in the floor or roof of a building.
  3. the cover over such an opening.
  4. Slang. the throat as used for drinking: His usual toast was a muttered “Down the hatch!”
  5. Aeronautics. an opening or door in an aircraft.
  6. the lower half of a divided door, both parts of which can be opened separately.
  7. a small door, grated opening, or serving counter in or attached to the wall of a building, room, etc., as for a merchant's stall.
  8. a bin or compartment built into a confined space, especially a deep storage bin.
  9. Automotive.
    1. the cargo area in a hatchback.
    2. Also called liftgate.the hinged lid of a hatchback that swings upward to provide access to the cargo area.
  10. anything resembling a hatch.
  1. batten down the/one's hatches,
    1. Nautical.prepare for stormy weather: used as a command.
    2. to prepare to meet an emergency or face a great difficulty: The government must batten down its hatches before the election.

Origin of hatch2

before 1100; Middle English hacche, Old English hæcc grating, hatch, half-gate; akin to Dutch hek gate, railing
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
British Dictionary definitions for batten down the hatches


  1. to cause (the young of various animals, esp birds) to emerge from the egg or (of young birds, etc) to emerge from the egg
  2. to cause (eggs) to break and release the fully developed young or (of eggs) to break and release the young animal within
  3. (tr) to contrive or devise (a scheme, plot, etc)
  1. the act or process of hatching
  2. a group of newly hatched animals
Derived Formshatchable, adjectivehatcher, noun

Word Origin

C13: of Germanic origin; compare Middle High German hecken to mate (used of birds), Swedish häcka to hatch, Danish hække


  1. a covering for a hatchway
    1. short for hatchway
    2. a door in an aircraft or spacecraft
  2. Also called: serving hatch an opening in a wall between a kitchen and a dining area
  3. the lower half of a divided door
  4. a sluice or sliding gate in a dam, dyke, or weir
  5. down the hatch slang (used as a toast) drink up!
  6. under hatches
    1. below decks
    2. out of sight
    3. brought low; dead

Word Origin

Old English hæcc; related to Middle High German heck, Dutch hek gate


  1. art to mark (a figure, shade, etc) with fine parallel or crossed lines to indicate shadingCompare hachure
Derived Formshatching, noun

Word Origin

C15: from Old French hacher to chop, from hache hatchet


  1. informal short for hatchback
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for batten down the hatches



"to produce young from eggs by incubation," from Middle English hachen (early 13c.), probably from an unrecorded Old English *hæccan, of unknown origin, related to Middle High German, German hecken "to mate" (used of birds). Meaning "to come forth from an egg" is late 14c. Figurative use (of plots, etc.) is from early 14c. Related: Hatched; hatching.



"opening," Old English hæc (genitive hæcce) "fence, grating, gate," from Proto-Germanic *hak- (cf. Middle High German heck, Dutch hek "fence, gate"). This apparently is the source of many of the Hatcher surnames; "one who lives near a gate." Sense of "plank opening in ship's deck" is first recorded mid-13c. Drinking phrase down the hatch first recorded 1931.



"engrave, draw fine parallel lines," late 14c., from Old French hachier "chop up, hack" (14c.), from hache "ax" (see hatchet). Related: Hatched; hatching. The noun meaning "an engraved line or stroke" is from 1650s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with batten down the hatches

batten down the hatches

Prepare for trouble, as in Here comes the boss—batten down the hatches. This term originated in the navy, where it signified preparing for a storm by fastening down canvas over doorways and hatches (openings) with strips of wood called battens. [Late 1800s]


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.