dead weight

or dead·weight


the heavy, unrelieved weight of anything inert: The dead weight of the bear's body was over 300 pounds.
a heavy or oppressive burden or responsibility.
the weight of a railroad car, truck, etc., as distinct from its load or contents.

Origin of dead weight

First recorded in 1650–60 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for dead weight

Contemporary Examples of dead weight

Historical Examples of dead weight

  • Koosje tried to lift her; but the dead-weight was beyond her, young and strong as she was.

  • The opposite of the "dead-weight seat" is what may be termed the "wabbling seat."

  • I don't know, Howard; what would you guess her dead-weight tonnage?

  • Two, I was told, were dead-weight men, and one a sort of higgling merchant.

    Rural Rides

    William Cobbett

  • She dragged and strained at his arms, trying to move him, but he was a dead-weight.


    Cynthia Stockley

British Dictionary definitions for dead weight

dead weight


a heavy weight or load
an oppressive burden; encumbrance
the difference between the loaded and the unloaded weights of a ship
another name for dead load
(in shipping) freight chargeable by weight rather than by bulk
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

Idioms and Phrases with dead weight

dead weight

A heavy or oppressive burden, as in That police record will be a dead weight on his career. This term alludes to the unrelieved weight of an inert mass. [Early 1700s]

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