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[waw-ter-geyt, wot-er-] /ˈwɔ tərˌgeɪt, ˈwɒt ər-/
a White House political scandal that came to light during the 1972 presidential campaign, growing out of a break-in at the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate apartment-office complex in Washington, D.C., and, after congressional hearings, culminating in the resignation of President Nixon in 1974.
any scandal involving abuses of power, corruption, or the like, and attempts to cover them up.
Related forms
post-Watergate, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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British Dictionary definitions for Watergate


an incident during the 1972 US presidential campaign, when a group of agents employed by the re-election organization of President Richard Nixon were caught breaking into the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate building, Washington, DC. The consequent political scandal was exacerbated by attempts to conceal the fact that senior White House officials had approved the burglary, and eventually forced the resignation of President Nixon
any similar public scandal, esp involving politicians or a possible cover-up See also -gate
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
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Word Origin and History for Watergate



mid-14c., "channel for water," from water (n.1) + gate. The name of a building in Washington, D.C., that housed the headquarters of the Democratic Party in the 1972 presidential election, it was burglarized June 17, 1972, which led to the resignation of President Nixon.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Watergate in Culture

Watergate definition

An incident in the presidency of Richard Nixon that led to his resignation. In June 1972, burglars in the pay of Nixon's campaign committee broke into offices of the Democratic party. In a complex chain of events, high officials on Nixon's staff who had been connected to the burglary used illegal means to keep the burglary from being fully investigated; these actions by Nixon's staff were known as the “cover-up.” Nixon arranged for secret tape-recording of many conversations in his office regarding the cover-up and then refused to hand the tapes over to investigators from Congress. After months of legal maneuvers, Nixon finally released the tapes, which showed that he had known about criminal activity by his staff. By this time, the House of Representatives was one step away from impeachment of Nixon. Leaders of Congress told him that if he were impeached and tried, he would very likely be removed from office. He resigned the presidency in August 1974, complaining of a lack of support from Congress. Several of his assistants were convicted of various crimes connected with Watergate. Nixon himself was never indicted and was pardoned by his successor, President Gerald Ford.

Note: Many people became more scornful of government after the Watergate incident. Others were encouraged that the investigation and convictions were finally carried out.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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