albatrosses

albatross

[al-buh-traws, -tros]
noun
1.
any of several large, web-footed sea birds of the family Diomedeidae that have the ability to remain aloft for long periods. Compare wandering albatross.
2.
a seemingly inescapable moral or emotional burden, as of guilt or responsibility.
3.
something burdensome that impedes action or progress.
4.
Textiles.
a.
a lightweight worsted fabric with a crepe or pebble finish.
b.
a plain-weave cotton fabric with a soft nap surface.

Origin:
1675–85; variant of algatross frigate bird < Portuguese alcatraz pelican, probably < Arabic al-ghaṭṭāṣ a kind of sea eagle, literally, the diver; -b- for -g- perhaps by association with Latin albus white (the bird's color)

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World English Dictionary
albatross (ˈælbəˌtrɒs)
 
n
1.  See also wandering albatross any large oceanic bird of the genera Diomedea and Phoebetria, family Diomedeidae, of cool southern oceans: order Procellariiformes (petrels). They have long narrow wings and are noted for a powerful gliding flight
2.  a constant and inescapable burden or handicap: an albatross of debt
3.  golf a score of three strokes under par for a hole
 
[C17: from Portuguese alcatraz pelican, from Arabic al-ghattās, from al the + ghattās white-tailed sea eagle; influenced by Latin albus white: C20 in sense 2, from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798) by Samuel Taylor Coleridge]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

albatross
1670s, probably from Sp./Port. alcatraz "pelican," perhaps derived from Arabic al-ghattas "sea eagle;" or from Port. alcatruz "the bucket of a water wheel," from Arabic al-qadus "machine for drawing water, jar" (from Gk. kados "jar"), in reference to the pelican's pouch (cf. Arabic saqqa "pelican," lit.
"water carrier"). Either way, the spelling was influenced by L. albus "white." The name extended, through some mistake, by Eng. sailors to a larger sea-bird (order Tubinares). Albatrosses were considered good luck by sailors; fig. sense of "burden" (1936) is from Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (1798) about the bad luck of a sailor who shoots an albatross and then is forced to wear its corpse as an indication that he, not the whole ship, offended against the bird. The prison-island of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay is named for pelicans that roosted there.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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