9 Grammatical Pitfalls


[bal-uh st] /ˈbæl əst/
Nautical. any heavy material carried temporarily or permanently in a vessel to provide desired draft and stability.
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.
anything that gives mental, moral, or political stability or steadiness:
the ballast of a steady income.
gravel, broken stone, slag, etc., placed between and under the ties of a railroad to give stability, provide drainage, and distribute loads.
  1. Also called ballast resistor. a device, often a resistor, that maintains the current in a circuit at a constant value by varying its resistance in order to counteract changes in voltage.
  2. a device that maintains the current through a fluorescent or mercury lamp at the desired constant value, sometimes also providing the necessary starting voltage and current.
verb (used with object)
to furnish with ballast:
to ballast a ship.
to give steadiness to; keep steady:
parental responsibilities that ballast a person.
in ballast, Nautical. carrying only ballast; carrying no cargo.
Origin of ballast
1450-1500; < Middle Low German, perhaps ultimately < Scandinavian; compare Old Danish, Old Swedish barlast, equivalent to bar bare1 + last load; see last4
Related forms
ballaster, noun
[buh-las-tik] /bəˈlæs tɪk/ (Show IPA),
overballast, verb (used with object)
subballast, noun
underballast, verb (used with object) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for ballast
  • For some reason, the starboard ballast tanks have failed to refill properly, and the ship has abruptly lost its balance.
  • In those days, the precious metal was sometimes used as heavy ballast to help keep a ship steady.
  • ballast water is carried in a ship's hold for increased stability.
  • Jellies have hitched free rides all over the world, frequently traveling in the ballast water of ships.
  • Jettisoning this ballast even while preserving regulations that are fundamental to economic growth will require good judgment.
  • They likely stowed away in the ballast tanks of a ship, according to scientists.
  • Take the ballast to a hardware or electrical supply store for replacement.
  • Invasive mussels and other critters are taken up by cargo shipping as part of the ballast water.
  • It also holds millions of gallons of water in the ship's ballast to keep the boat stable.
  • Start by laying down a ballast of solid meat in the middle to prevent tipping.
British Dictionary definitions for ballast


any dense heavy material, such as lead or iron pigs, used to stabilize a vessel, esp one that is not carrying cargo
crushed rock, broken stone, etc, used for the foundation of a road or railway track
coarse aggregate of sandy gravel, used in making concrete
anything that provides stability or weight
(electronics) a device for maintaining the current in a circuit
verb (transitive)
to give stability or weight to
Word Origin
C16: probably from Low German; related to Old Danish, Old Swedish barlast, literally: bare load (without commercial value), from bar bare, mere + last load, burden
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
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Word Origin and History for ballast

"heavy material used to steady a ship," 1520s, from Middle English bar "bare" (see bare; in this case "mere") + last "a load, burden," or borrowed from identical terms in North Sea Germanic and Scandinavian (cf. Old Danish barlast, 14c.). "Mere" because not carried for commercial purposes. Dutch balg-last "ballast," literally "belly-load," is a folk-etymology corruption.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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