Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



In this composite image taken by GOES 11, part of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite system, the doldrums (sense 3) or intertropical convergence zone can be identified by the band of clouds at the equator

From obsolete doldrum (slothful or stupid person) plus the plural suffix -s. Doldrum is possibly derived from dull or Middle English dold (past participle of dullen, dollen (to make or become blunt or dull; to make or become dull-witted or stupid; to make or become inactive),[1] from dul, dol, dolle (not sharp, blunt, dull; not quick-witted, stupid; lethargic, sluggish);[2] see further at dull), modelled after tantrum.[3]



doldrums pl (plural only)

  1. Usually preceded by the: a state of apathy or lack of interest; a situation where one feels boredom, ennui, or tedium; a state of listlessness or malaise.
    Synonym: dumps
    I was in the doldrums yesterday and just didn’t feel inspired.
    • 1827, “[Varieties.] Extracts from the Common-place Book of a Newspaper-reporter of Accidents.”, in Meyer’s British Chronicle, a Universal Review of British Literature, &c., volume II, number 4, Gotha, Thuringia; New York, N.Y.: The Bibliographic Institution, OCLC 503835384, column 125:
      [T]aken very ill in Cheapside—three pennyworth of brandy, and got home to bed at nine, in the doldrums.
    • 1878, E. S. Maine, “‘The Doldrums’”, in Angus Gray [...] In Three Volumes, volume II, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., [], OCLC 12239397, pages 114–115:
      [H]e would sit over the fire with a book in his hand, staring over it into the red glow with his brows knit, and a dogged, almost sullen look about his mouth. [...] One evening about this time Mrs. Gray, who was a woman of determination, and who had a horror of what she called 'the doldrums,' made up her mind that she had had enough of this kind of thing, and must come to the bottom of this affliction, or temper, or money embarrassment of her son's without further delay.
    • 1995 January, A Look Back at Alaska, [Anchorage, Alaska?: United States Department of Agriculture], OCLC 36787337, page [4]:
      1987 The economic doldrums from oil prices continue to affect the state, causing many to lose their jobs and leave, banks to foreclose on property, and businesses to go bankrupt.
    • 1998, Richard Frankel, “Life and Death Imagery in Adolescence”, in The Adolescent Psyche: Jungian and Winnicottian Perspectives, London; New York, N.Y.: Routledge, →ISBN, part II (Adolescence, Initiation, and the Dying Process), page 79:
      It is typical for adolescents to respond to the doldrums, feeling dead or numb inside, by sleeping a lot, watching hours upon hours of television, holing up in their room for days on end.
    • 2008, Marcia L. Worthing; Charles A. Buck, “Assess the Underlying Cause of Your Boredom, Burnout, Retirement, or Firing”, in Escaping the Mid-career Doldrums: What to Do next when You’re Bored, Burned Out, Retired or Fired, Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, →ISBN, page 64:
      At mid-career, though, boredom has a more insidious effect. [...] It can be a devastating experience to no longer feel excited by what you do or to feel you're not an integral part of an organization. That's when the doldrums set in.
  2. (nautical) Usually preceded by the: the state of a sailing ship when it is impeded by calms or light, baffling winds, and is unable to make progress.
    • 1823, Lord Byron, The Island, or Christian and His Comrades, London: Printed for John Hunt, [], OCLC 927012143, canto II, stanza XXII, lines 507–509, page 44:
      [F]rom the bluff-head, where I watched to-day, / I saw her in the doldrums; for the wind / Was light and baffling.
  3. (nautical, oceanography, by extension) Usually preceded by the: a part of the ocean near the equator where calms, squalls, and light, baffling winds are common.
    Synonyms: calms, intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ)
    • 1890, George E. Curtis, “[General Appendix to the Smithsonian Report for 1889] Progress of Meteorology in 1889”, in Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, Showing the Operations, Expenditures, and Condition of the Institution to July, 1889, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, OCLC 859339597, section VII (Winds and Ocean Currents; General Atmospheric Circulation), page 245:
      Mr. Ralph Abercromby has made special observations on the upper wind currents over the equator in the Atlantic Ocean. [...] With respect to the general circulation of the atmosphere we know that the surface trades either die out at the doldrums or unite into one moderate east current; that the low and middle currents over the doldrums are very variable, but that the winds at these low and middle levels, 2,000 to 20,000 feet, come usually from the southeast over the northeast trade, and from the northeast over the southeast trade, and that the highest currents—over 20,000 feet—move from east over the doldrums, from southwest over the northeast trade, and from northwest over the southeast trade.
    • 1938, I[van] R[ay] Tannehill, “Places of Origin”, in The Hurricane: (Revised 1938) (United States Department of Agriculture Miscellaneous Publication; no. 197), Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, published February 1939, OCLC 804663, page 2, column 2:
      Hurricanes are known to develop in the belt of doldrums in the southern North Atlantic Ocean and also in the western Caribbean Sea when the Pacific doldrum belt extends into that area. However, many tropical storms of the Gulf, Caribbean, and southern North Atlantic have not with certainty been traced to a place of origin, and it cannot be said with assurance that they do not develop occasionally in other areas.
    • 2001, Douglas Berry, chapter 41, in A Ship Called Grace, Lincoln, Neb.: Writer’s Showcase, iUniverse, →ISBN, page 313:
      [...] The High Encounter entered the doldrums near the equator, where the ship ended up in the captain's effort to avoid the British. Without wind to move the ship, The High Encounter waffled in the slow-moving sea.

Related terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

See also[edit]



  1. (obsolete) plural of doldrum (slothful or stupid person)


  1. ^ dullen, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 18 May 2019.
  2. ^ dul, adj.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 18 May 2019.
  3. ^ doldrum”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1897; “doldrums, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.

Further reading[edit]