AskDefine | Define scuttlebutt

Dictionary Definition

scuttlebutt n : a report (often malicious) about the behavior of other people; "the divorce caused much gossip" [syn: gossip, comment]

User Contributed Dictionary



From scuttle + butt.




  1. In the context of "nautical|countable": A keg of water on board ship, around which sailors would gossip.
  2. In the context of "informal|uncountable": Gossip, rumour, idle chatter.
    • 2006, Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day, Vintage 2007, p. 3:
      Since their orders had come through, the “scuttlebutt” among the excited and curious crew had been of little besides the fabled “White City” [...].


a keg of water on board ship, around which sailors would gossip
gossip, rumour, idle chatter
  • Hungarian: pletyka, mendemonda

See also

Extensive Definition

Scuttlebutt means water fountain or a rumor.

As Slang

Water for immediate consumption on a sailing ship was conventionally stored in a scuttled butt: a butt (cask or small barrel) which had been scuttled by making a hole in it so the water could be withdrawn. Since sailors exchanged gossip when they gathered at the scuttlebutt for a drink of water, scuttlebutt became Navy slang for gossip or rumors.

Regatta Event

In the United States, Sea Scout regattas include a variety of events, one of which is scuttle butt, or formally "Raising of the Scuttlebutt." In the event a 50 gallon drum of water is lifted 3 feet off the ground using a block and tackle and a tripod. The tripod is constructed from three spars, which are tied together by "head-lashing." The block and tackle is suspended from the top of the tripod, which is then erected by the crew. A barrel hitch is tied around the drum, which is then lifted off the ground. It must then be lowered and the equipment "broken down" back to its original condition. Time stops when all crew members are back in line and called to attention by the coxswain. There are three trials per crew, and the crew with the fastest time wins. Disqualification can occur when water is spilled or if crew other than the coxswain (and sometimes the barrel hitchers) talk. The event can be completed from start to finish in around 30 seconds with a veteran crew and a perfect run. A run under a minute is generally considered good.

See also

  • Water cooler and Furphy WW1 Australian Army slang same meaning and provenance as above; also in general use (somewhat arcane now)


Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

bruit, buzz, canard, common talk, cry, flying rumor, gossip, grapevine, hearsay, idea afloat, latrine rumor, news stirring, on-dit, report, roorback, rumble, rumor, talk, town talk, unconfirmed report, whisper
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