Definition of albatross in US English:



  • 1A very large oceanic bird related to the shearwaters, with long narrow wings. Albatrosses, some species of which have wingspans greater than 10 feet (3.3 m), are found mainly in the southern oceans, with three kinds in the North Pacific.

    Genera Diomedea and Phoebetria, family Diomedeidae: several species, including the sooty albatross (P. fusca), Laysan albatross (D. immutablis), and wandering albatross (D. exulans)

    • ‘A birdwatcher 65 million years ago could have seen relatives of today's loons, geese and ducks, albatrosses and petrels, and gulls and shorebirds, and possibly other familiar birds as well.’
    • ‘But seabirds such as albatrosses and petrels, which have large, tubular nostrils, are known to use scent clues to locate nesting sites and prey out at sea.’
    • ‘Pteranodon was almost certainly a soaring animal; it used rising warm air to maintain altitude; a common strategy among large winged animals (among birds, albatrosses and vultures are adept at soaring).’
    • ‘In general, larger birds like the albatross tend to live longer than smaller species.’
    • ‘For me, it will always be a trip of a lifetime, as we were soon surrounded by a bewildering assortment of albatrosses, shearwaters and petrels, each a new species for us.’
    • ‘Many of the oceanic birds, the petrels, the albatrosses, the penguins etc., nest on but one or a few islands and are completely dependent for survival on the integrity of these places.’
    • ‘Fishing experts estimate that about 60,000 sea birds including about 2,000 giant petrels and around 10,000 albatrosses are killed this way every year.’
    • ‘Among oceangoing avian species, albatrosses and frigatebirds are the quintessential seabirds.’
    • ‘And of course, today we have such adept flyers as the swallows, hummingbirds, falcons, and the soaring albatrosses which demonstrate the great diversity of flight adaptations in birds.’
    • ‘There are hundreds of different types of birds including five types of penguins, albatrosses, and cara caras (a rare bird of prey).’
    • ‘Taking measures to prevent the accidental capture of birds benefits both the albatross and the fishermen, since they can catch more fish if the hooks are not catching birds by mistake.’
    • ‘Flamingos are conceded by all to be closely linked to pelicans, albatrosses, loons, probably penguins, and the like - the charadriomorph lineage.’
    • ‘It is unusual in that it is a dark albatross; most other albatrosses are predominantly white.’
    • ‘It's penguins, albatrosses, caracaras, steamer ducks and a couple of endemic small jobs you've come for.’
    • ‘It is home to many birds such as albatross, penguins, cormorants, gulls and gannets, and the New Zealand fur seal, which can easily be seen from the road lazing around in rocky areas.’
    • ‘The black frigatebirds, with their sharply angled wings, ride rising thermals, whereas the white albatrosses, with their long narrow wings, catch a lift on a cold gale.’
    • ‘Conservationists say unregulated fisheries in the southern oceans are endangering the albatross.’
    • ‘Seabirds, particularly albatrosses and petrels, regularly grab the baited hooks.’
    • ‘Many of these vessels head for the southern oceans - to the major albatross feeding grounds.’
    • ‘Petrels, albatrosses, cormorants, frigatebirds, gulls etc. are mysterious and inspiring birds: often the subject of poetic stories and lots of myths around the world.’
    1. 1.1 A source of frustration or guilt; an encumbrance (in allusion to Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner)
      ‘an albatross of a marriage’
      • ‘The ultimate target was Primakov, but the Kremlin's strategy was first to blast Luzhkov so as to turn him into a burdensome, malodorous albatross around the former prime minister's neck.’
      • ‘The albatross has flown-the responsibility now rests on the observers of today and tomorrow to ensure it stays aloft.’
      • ‘Queen Noor of Jordan is backing an albatross aptly named The Ancient Mariner.’
      • ‘No-one is hanging albatrosses around the necks of the writers or of the responders.’
      • ‘Instead, they see it as a problem, as a liability, as an albatross around our financial necks.’
      • ‘However, the average student, in order simply to meet the expense of university education - even with parental support - is still burdened by the albatross of a £12,000 debt on leaving.’
      responsibility, obligation, liability
      View synonyms
  • 2Golf

    another term for double eagle
    • ‘In the modified stableford format, an albatross is worth eight points, an eagle five and a birdie two, while a par is worth nothing and players lose one point for a bogey and two for multiple bogeys.’
    • ‘Gary Evans has been a professional for 13 years and his albatross at the 4th hole was the first of his career.’
    • ‘Thanks to his albatross and some solid golf thereafter he finished three under.’
    • ‘In America, the term double eagle is used instead of albatross to describe such a feat!’
    • ‘In 2002, there were four albatrosses on the PGA Tour, versus 40 holes-in-one.’


Late 17th century: alteration (influenced by Latin albus ‘white’) of 16th-century alcatras, applied to various seabirds including the frigate bird and pelican, from Spanish and Portuguese alcatraz, from Arabic al-ġaṭṭās ‘the diver’.