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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


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

Related Words


Examples from the Web for berthing

Historical Examples

  • The staircase, porch, or berthing of the ladder-way to the cabin.

    The Sailor's Word-Book

    William Henry Smyth

  • The berthing made to fit into a vessel's gangway on either side.

    The Sailor's Word-Book

    William Henry Smyth

  • The rest of his companions had to hasten to assist in the berthing of the airship.

    The Dreadnought of the Air

    Percy F. Westerman

  • A little afterwards the boatswain's whistle sounded, the oars moved, and the galley was rowed out to her berthing station.

    Sea-Dogs All!

    Tom Bevan

  • The ship had berthing room for eight or ten people irrespective of the officers who slept aft.

British Dictionary definitions for berthing


  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

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 berthing



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 berthing


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.