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1805, "cask of drinking water kept on a ship's deck, having a hole (scuttle) cut in it for a cup or dipper," from scuttle "opening in a ship's deck" (see scuttle (v.2)) + butt (n.2) "barrel." Earlier scuttle cask (1777). Meaning "rumor, gossip" first recorded 1901, originally nautical slang, traditionally said to be from the sailors' custom of gathering around the scuttlebutt to gossip. Cf. water-cooler, figurative for "workplace gossip" mid-20c.
Rumors; gossip; presumed confidential information: worry about a slump, according to business scuttlebutt
[1901+ Navy; fr the chitchat around the scuttlebutt, ''drinking fountain, water cask,'' on naval vessels]