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watershed

[waw-ter-shed, wot-er-] /ˈwɔ tərˌʃɛd, ˈwɒt ər-/
noun
1.
Chiefly British. the ridge or crest line dividing two drainage areas; water parting; divide.
2.
the region or area drained by a river, stream, etc.; drainage area.
3.
Architecture, wash (def 44).
4.
an important point of division or transition between two phases, conditions, etc.:
The treaty to ban war in space may prove to be one of history's great watersheds.
adjective
5.
constituting a watershed:
a watershed area; a watershed case.
Origin
1795-1805
1795-1805; water + shed2
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for watershed
  • The vaccinal eradication of smallpox was a watershed achievement.
  • Human population density in the watershed is high, yet elephant and buffalo populations have not dropped.
  • The crisis that engulfed first the financial industry and then entire economies is a watershed event.
  • You will discover how rainwater travels through a watershed and how pollutants can get into groundwater.
  • Today marks the anniversary of a watershed moment in human history.
  • This is a watershed moment.
  • It turns out that if the watershed around the canal is well forested, this evens out the water supply throughout the year.
  • Population pressure is becoming more intense, forcing farmers onto steeper lands in the upper watershed forests of this ecoregion.
  • The invention of complex numbers was a watershed in mathematics.
  • He is evidently at a sort of watershed, looking before and after-but especially after-at his own work.
British Dictionary definitions for watershed

watershed

/ˈwɔːtəˌʃɛd/
noun
1.
the dividing line between two adjacent river systems, such as a ridge
2.
an important period or factor that serves as a dividing line
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 watershed
n.

"line separating waters flowing into different rivers," 1803, from water (n.1) + shed "ridge of high ground between two valleys or lower ground, a divide" in the topographical sense, perhaps from shed (v.) in its extended noun sense of "the part of the hair of the head" (14c.). A loan-translation of German Wasser-scheide. Figurative sense is attested from 1878. Meaning "ground of a river system" is from 1878.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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watershed in Medicine

watershed wa·ter·shed (wô'tər-shěd')
n.

  1. A ridge between two areas that directs drainage to either side.

  2. The area of marginal blood flow at the extreme periphery of a vascular bed.

  3. Ridges of the lumbar vetebrae and the pelvic brim formed in the abdominal cavity, which determine the direction in which a free effusion will gravitate when the body is supine.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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watershed in Science
watershed
  (wô'tər-shěd')   
  1. A continuous ridge of high ground forming a divide between two different drainage basins or river systems.

  2. The region enclosed by such a divide and draining into a river, river system, or other body of water.


The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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watershed in Culture

watershed definition


A ridge of high land dividing two areas that are drained by different river systems. On one side of a watershed, rivers and streams flow in one direction; on the other side they flow in another direction. Also, the area drained by a water system.

Note: By extension, a “watershed” is a critical point that serves as a dividing line: “The parties reached a watershed in the contract negotiations.”
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Encyclopedia Article for watershed

catchment area

area from which all precipitation flows to a single stream or set of streams. For example, the total area drained by the Mississippi River constitutes its drainage basin, whereas that part of the Mississippi River drained by the Ohio River is the Ohio's drainage basin. The boundary between drainage basins is a drainage divide: all the precipitation on opposite sides of a drainage divide will flow into different drainage basins.

Learn more about catchment area with a free trial on Britannica.com
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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