[kaw-fer-dam, kof-er-]
a watertight enclosure placed or constructed in waterlogged soil or under water and pumped dry so that construction or repairs can proceed under normal conditions.
Nautical. a sealed void between two bulkheads, as for insulation or as an extra barrier to the escape of liquids or vapors.

1730–40; coffer + dam1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
cofferdam (ˈkɒfəˌdæm)
1.  a watertight structure, usually of sheet piling, that encloses an area under water, pumped dry to enable construction work to be carried out. Below a certain depth a caisson is required
2.  (on a ship) a compartment separating two bulkheads or floors, as for insulation or to serve as a barrier against the escape of gas or oil

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Example sentences
Sheet piles pulled from south cofferdam are loaded onto barge.
The lowest contour line for each was the elevation of the top of the cofferdam.
Workers then go inside the cofferdam to prepare and construct the foundation.
The addition of impact attenuators, barriers or cofferdam type fender systems
  to redirect or lessen impact damage.
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