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 deadweight

Contemporary Examples of deadweight

  • Access to credit can be a great thing, but it can also become a deadweight around your neck.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Dirty Debt, Done Dirt Cheap

    Nick Gillespie

    October 9, 2013

  • Similarly, consider Joel Waldfogel's AER article "The Deadweight Loss of Christmas" (which he later adapted into Scroogenomics).

    The Daily Beast logo
    How Terrible Is Christmas?

    Megan McArdle

    December 26, 2012

  • After all, excessive holiday spending results in what economists refer to a “deadweight loss.”

    The Daily Beast logo
    6 Secrets of Perfect Gift Giving

    Lee Eisenberg

    November 26, 2009

Historical Examples of deadweight

  • Yet the power (so defined as horse-power) required to raise a deadweight of 20 lbs.

    Unexplored Spain

    Abel Chapman

  • Blindly, I felt for the buttons on my dress, and buttoning I sank back in sleep again—the deadweight sleep of utter exhaustion.

    Hungry Hearts

    Anzia Yezierska

  • It was the sudden release of both the keel and deadweight of the projectile that had caused R19 to shoot up to the surface.

    A Sub and a Submarine

    Percy F. Westerman

  • The remainder were freighters, averaging about 5,000 deadweight tons each.

    Area Handbook for Romania

    Eugene K. Keefe, Donald W. Bernier, Lyle E. Brenneman, William Giloane, James M. Moore, and Neda A. Walpole

British Dictionary definitions for deadweight

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

Word Origin and History for deadweight

1650s, "weight of an inert body," from dead (adj.) + weight (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with deadweight

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.