- (used with a singular or plural verb) a complete system of reservoirs, pipelines, conduits, etc., by which water is collected, purified, stored, and pumped to urban users.
- (used with a singular verb) a pumping station or a purifying station of such a system.
- (usually used with a plural verb) Sometimes waterwork. a spectacular display of water, mechanically produced, as for a pageant.
- (used with a singular or plural verb) Slang. tears, or the source of tears: to turn on the waterworks.
- Slang. the kidneys.
Origin of waterworks
1400–50; late Middle English; see water, works
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
Examples from the Web for waterworks
Below, a waterworks at Tokyo Disneyland gets interrupted by the 8.9 quake.Shocking Videos and Photos From the 2011 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami
The Daily Beast
March 11, 2011
The waterworks tend to switch on at moments of teeth-grinding stress and sweet relief.The Scandal Guru
March 11, 2010
Today Pat Brown is remembered as a builder—of freeways and universities and waterworks.Why Newsom Dropped Out
October 31, 2009
The house is between the waterworks and the steam-tram station.Roden's Corner
Henry Seton Merriman
The table was pushed into the window and became a waterworks of importance.
The smoke ascending from the waterworks was no greyer than the day.Mountain Blood
Our duty was to attack the waterworks, if there was any resistance.A Yeoman's Letters
P. T. Ross
The head of the patrol is now at the bridge, XVI (un') northwest of the waterworks.Manual of Military Training
James A. Moss
- (functioning as singular) an establishment for storing, purifying, and distributing water for community supply
- (functioning as plural) a display of water in movement, as in fountains
- (functioning as plural) British informal, euphemistic the urinary system, esp with reference to its normal functioninghe has trouble with his waterworks
- (functioning as plural) informal crying; tears
Idioms and Phrases with waterworks
see turn on the waterworks.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.