[ waw-ter-wurks, wot-er- ]
See synonyms for waterworks on Thesaurus.com
noun,plural wa·ter·works.
  1. (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.

  2. (used with a singular verb) a pumping station or a purifying station of such a system.

  1. Sometimes waterwork .(usually used with a plural verb) a spectacular display of water, mechanically produced, as for a pageant.

  2. (used with a singular or plural verb)Slang. tears, or the source of tears: to turn on the waterworks.

  3. Slang. the kidneys.

Origin of waterworks

First recorded in 1400–50; late Middle English; water + works (in the sense “manufacturing establishment”)

Words Nearby waterworks

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use waterworks in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for waterworks


/ (ˈwɔːtəˌwɜːks) /

  1. (functioning as singular) an establishment for storing, purifying, and distributing water for community supply

  2. (functioning as plural) a display of water in movement, as in fountains

  1. (functioning as plural) British informal, euphemistic the urinary system, esp with reference to its normal functioning: he has trouble with his waterworks

  2. (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.