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  1. a shelflike sleeping space, as on a ship, airplane, or railroad car.
  2. Nautical.
    1. the space allotted to a vessel at anchor or at a wharf.
    2. the distance maintained between a vessel and the shore, another vessel, or any object.
    3. the position or rank of a ship's officer.
    4. the cabin of a ship's officer.
  3. a job; position.
  4. a place, listing, or role: She clinched a berth on our tennis team.
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verb (used with object)
  1. Nautical.
    1. to allot to (a vessel) a certain space at which to anchor or tie up.
    2. to bring to or install in a berth, anchorage, or moorage: The captain had to berth the ship without the aid of tugboats.
  2. to provide with a sleeping space, as on a train.
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verb (used without object)
  1. Nautical. to come to a dock, anchorage, or moorage.
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  1. give a wide berth to, to shun; remain discreetly away from: Since his riding accident, he has given a wide berth to skittish horses.
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Origin of berth

1615–25; probably bear1 + -th1
Related formsun·berth, verb (used with object)
Can be confusedberth birth

Synonyms for berth

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for berth

dock, wharf, port, spot, quay, cot, anchorage, billet, jetty, bed, levee, slip, bedroom, compartment, pier, haven, hammock, living, capacity, appointment

Examples from the Web for berth

Contemporary Examples of berth

Historical Examples of berth

  • I'm sorry for you an' the crew,' says he, 'an' I wisht I hadn't took the berth.

  • The ships did not get clear without some trouble, and we thought it wisest to shift our berth.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • The schooner ahead of us had to cut, and she shifted her berth outside of us.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • We thought it best to give these dare-devils a berth, and so we left them.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • All this was done, I getting a berth from which I could see the female.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

British Dictionary definitions for berth


  1. a bed or bunk in a vessel or train, usually narrow and fixed to a wall
  2. nautical a place assigned to a ship at a mooring
  3. nautical sufficient distance from the shore or from other ships or objects for a ship to manoeuvre
  4. give a wide berth to to keep clear of; avoid
  5. nautical accommodation on a ship
  6. informal a job, esp as a member of a ship's crew
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  1. (tr) nautical to assign a berth to (a vessel)
  2. nautical to dock (a vessel)
  3. (tr) to provide with a sleeping place, as on a vessel or train
  4. (intr) nautical to pick up a mooring in an anchorage
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Word Origin for berth

C17: probably from bear 1 + -th 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 berth


1620s, "convenient sea room" (both for ships and sailors), of uncertain origin, probably from bear (v.) + abstract noun suffix -th (2) as in strength, health, etc. Original sense is preserved in phrase to give (something or someone) wide berth. Meaning "place on a ship to stow chests, room for sailors" is from 1706; extended to non-nautical situations by 1778.

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1660s, of ships, from berth (n.). Of persons (intransitive), from 1886. Related: Berthed; berthing.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with berth


see give a wide berth to.

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