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verb (used with or without object), dowsed, dows·ing, noun
  1. douse.


verb (used without object), dowsed, dows·ing.
  1. to search for underground supplies of water, metal, etc., by the use of a divining rod.
verb (used with object), dowsed, dows·ing.
  1. to search for (as water) by or as if by dowsing.

Origin of dowse2

First recorded in 1685–95; orig. dial. (SW England); origin obscure
Can be confuseddouse dowse


or dowse

verb (used with object), doused, dous·ing.
  1. to plunge into water or the like; drench: She doused the clothes in soapy water.
  2. to splash or throw water or other liquid on: The children doused each other with the hose.
  3. to extinguish: She quickly doused the candle's flame with her fingertips.
  4. Informal. to remove; doff.
  5. Nautical.
    1. to lower or take in (a sail, mast, or the like) suddenly.
    2. to slacken (a line) suddenly.
    3. to stow quickly.
verb (used without object), doused, dous·ing.
  1. to plunge or be plunged into a liquid.
  1. British Dialect. a stroke or blow.

Origin of douse

First recorded in 1590–1600; origin uncertain
Can be confuseddouse dowse
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for dowsing

Historical Examples

  • It has been humorously conjectured, that from this ruthless devastator originated the phrase to give a Dowsing.

    Curiosities of Literature, Vol. 1 (of 3)

    Isaac D'Israeli

  • Another phase of psychic activity is that illustrated in "dowsing" or water-finding by means of the hazel fork.

    Second Sight


  • The entrance door is medival, probably removed from elsewhere to replace the doorway defaced by Dowsing.

    Cambridge and its Story

    Charles William Stubbs

  • The divining, or "dowsing," rod of Dousterswivel still keeps its place in mining superstition and in the search for wells.

    The Antiquary, Complete

    Sir Walter Scott

  • The neighbouring village of Stetchworth (or Stretchworth) also suffered in Dowsing's visitation.

British Dictionary definitions for dowsing


verb, noun
  1. a variant spelling of douse 1
Derived Formsdowser, noun


  1. (intr) to search for underground water, minerals, etc, using a divining rod; divine
Derived Formsdowser, noun

Word Origin

C17: of unknown origin



  1. to plunge or be plunged into water or some other liquid; duck
  2. (tr) to drench with water, esp in order to wash or clean
  3. (tr) to put out (a light, candle, etc)
  1. an immersion
Derived Formsdouser or dowser, noun

Word Origin

C16: perhaps related to obsolete douse to strike, of obscure origin


verb (tr)
  1. nautical to lower (sail) quickly
  2. archaic to strike or beat
  1. archaic a blow

Word Origin

C16: of uncertain origin; perhaps related to douse 1
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 dowsing



1550s, "to strike, punch," which is perhaps from Middle Dutch dossen "beat forcefully" or a similar Low German word.

Meaning "to strike a sail in haste" is recorded from 1620s; that of "to extinguish (a light)" is from 1785; perhaps influenced by dout (1520s), an obsolete contraction of do out (cf. doff, don). OED regards the meaning "to plunge into water, to throw water over" (c.1600) as a separate word, of unknown origin, though admitting there may be a connection of some sort. Related: Doused; dousing.



1690s, a south England dialect word, of uncertain origin, said to have been introduced to Devon by German miners in Elizabethan times. Related: Dowsed; dowsing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper