[ waw-ter-wurks, wot-er- ]
/ ˈwɔ tərˌwɜrks, ˈwɒt ər- /
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noun, plural wa·ter·works.
(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.
Sometimes waterwork .(usually used with a plural verb) 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.
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“Was” is used for the indicative past tense of “to be,” and “were” is only used for the subjunctive past tense.

Origin of waterworks

First recorded in 1400–50; late Middle English; water + works (in the sense “manufacturing establishment”)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

How to use waterworks in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for waterworks

/ (ˈwɔːtəˌwɜːks) /

(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
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

Other 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.