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[burth] /bɜrθ/
a shelflike sleeping space, as on a ship, airplane, or railroad car.
  1. the space allotted to a vessel at anchor or at a wharf.
  2. the distance maintained between a vessel and the shore, another vessel, or any object.
  3. the position or rank of a ship's officer.
  4. the cabin of a ship's officer.
a job; position.
a place, listing, or role:
She clinched a berth on our tennis team.
verb (used with object)
  1. to allot to (a vessel) a certain space at which to anchor or tie up.
  2. to bring to or install in a berth, anchorage, or moorage:
    The captain had to berth the ship without the aid of tugboats.
to provide with a sleeping space, as on a train.
verb (used without object)
Nautical. to come to a dock, anchorage, or moorage.
give a wide berth to, to shun; remain discreetly away from:
Since his riding accident, he has given a wide berth to skittish horses.
Origin of berth
1615-25; probably bear1 + -th1
Related forms
unberth, verb (used with object)
Can be confused
berth, birth.
4. spot, slot, position, post, niche, appointment. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for berth
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "You talk as if we were centipedes," said Bess, releasing Nan's foot and sitting up grumpily in the berth.

  • I'm sorry for you an' the crew,' says he, 'an' I wisht I hadn't took the berth.

  • Leaving Dick to make the air ship secure in her berth, Matt had tumbled out of the car and hurried after Carl.

  • The ships did not get clear without some trouble, and we thought it wisest to shift our berth.

    Ned Myers James Fenimore Cooper
  • He looked under the berth, peered into the corners, and pulled back the blanket and sheet.

    The Alaskan James Oliver Curwood
  • So far all was well, and I began to look about me for a berth.

    Ned Myers James Fenimore Cooper
  • Didn't I tell you that Mrs. Mountcastle was too weak to leave her berth?

    They Looked and Loved Mrs. Alex McVeigh Miller
  • When we reached New York, our chief mate left us, and I was offered the berth.

    Ned Myers James Fenimore Cooper
British Dictionary definitions for berth


a bed or bunk in a vessel or train, usually narrow and fixed to a wall
(nautical) a place assigned to a ship at a mooring
(nautical) sufficient distance from the shore or from other ships or objects for a ship to manoeuvre
give a wide berth to, to keep clear of; avoid
(nautical) accommodation on a ship
(informal) a job, esp as a member of a ship's crew
(transitive) (nautical) to assign a berth to (a vessel)
(nautical) to dock (a vessel)
(transitive) to provide with a sleeping place, as on a vessel or train
(intransitive) (nautical) to pick up a mooring in an anchorage
Word Origin
C17: probably from bear1 + -th1
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 berth

1620s, "convenient sea room" (both for ships and sailors), of uncertain origin, probably from bear (v.) + abstract noun suffix -th (2) as in strength, health, etc. Original sense is preserved in phrase to give (something or someone) wide berth. Meaning "place on a ship to stow chests, room for sailors" is from 1706; extended to non-nautical situations by 1778.


1660s, of ships, from berth (n.). Of persons (intransitive), from 1886. Related: Berthed; berthing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for berth



A job, appointment, situation, etc: Dissatisfied with his prewar truck-driving berth (late 1700s+ Nautical)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with berth
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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