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Word of the Day
Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Definitions for ballast

  1. anything that gives mental, moral, or political stability or steadiness: the ballast of a steady income.
  2. Nautical. any heavy material carried temporarily or permanently in a vessel to provide desired draft and stability.
  3. Aeronautics. something heavy, as bags of sand, placed in the car of a balloon for control of altitude and, less often, of attitude, or placed in an aircraft to control the position of the center of gravity.

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Citations for ballast
The respectable concourse, I contend, men and women, should not have their sensations heightened in the hot-bed of luxurious indolence, at the expence of their understanding; for, unless there be a ballast of understanding, they will never become either virtuous or free... Mary Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792
...Mr. Ejiofor’s restrained, open, translucent performance works as a ballast, something to cling onto, especially during the frenzies of violence. Manohla Dargis, "The Blood and Tears, Not the Magnolias," New York Times, October 17, 2013
Origin of ballast
Ballast emerged in English in the late 1400s with a nautical noun sense of "any heavy material used to steady a ship." It is perhaps of Scandinavian origin, descending from the Old Swedish and Old Danish term barlast, bar meaning "mere" or "bare," and last meaning "load" or "cargo."