[ ded-woo d ]
/ ˈdɛdˌwʊd /


the dead branches on a tree; dead branches or trees.
useless or burdensome persons or things: He cut the deadwood from his staff.
(in writing) unnecessary words, phrases, or exposition; expendable verbiage.
Nautical. a solid construction, serving only as reinforcement, located between the keel of a vessel and the stem or sternpost.
Bowling. pins remaining on the alley after having been knocked down by the ball.
  1. Rummy. cards in a hand that have not been included in sets and are usually counted as points against the holder.
  2. Poker. cards that have been discarded.

Nearby words

  1. deadman,
  2. deadpan,
  3. deadrise,
  4. deadweight,
  5. deadweight tonnage,
  6. deadwork,
  7. deaerate,
  8. deaf,
  9. deaf aid,
  10. deaf as a post

Origin of deadwood

First recorded in 1720–30; dead + wood1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for deadwood

British Dictionary definitions for deadwood


/ (ˈdɛdˌwʊd) /


dead trees or branches
informal a useless person; encumbrance
nautical a filler piece between the keel and the stern of a wooden vessel
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 deadwood



1887 in figurative sense of "useless person or thing," originally American English, from dead (adj.) + wood (n.). Dead wood in a forest is useful as firewood; perhaps the reference here is to the dried up parts of plants grown for commercial production of flowers or fruit.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper