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Alternative forms[edit]


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈskʌ.təl/, [ˈskʌ.tɫ̩], [ˈskʌ.təɫ]
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈskʌ.təl/, [ˈskʌ.ɾɫ̩], [ˈskʌ.ɾəɫ]
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ʌtəl

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English scuttel, scutel, from Old English scutel (dish, platter), from Latin scutella, diminutive form of Latin scutra (flat tray, dish), perhaps related to Latin scutum (shield); compare Dutch schotel and German Schüssel.


scuttle (plural scuttles)

Several black scuttles standing on edge
Coal scuttles
  1. A container like an open bucket (usually to hold and carry coal).
    • 1852 March – 1853 September, Charles Dickens, chapter 4, in Bleak House, London: Bradbury and Evans, [], published 1853, →OCLC:
      All through dinner—which was long, in consequence of such accidents as the dish of potatoes being mislaid in the coal skuttle and the handle of the corkscrew coming off and striking the young woman in the chin—Mrs. Jellyby preserved the evenness of her disposition.
    • 1904, Edith Nesbit, The New Treasure Seekers, Chapter 2:
      On the way, with superior precaution, we got out our saucepan. The kitchen fire was red, but low; the coal-cellar was locked, and there was nothing in the scuttle but a little coal-dust and the piece of brown paper that is put in to keep the coals from tumbling out through the bottom where the hole is.
  2. A broad, shallow basket.
  3. (obsolete, Northern England and Scotland) A dish, platter or a trencher.
Usage notes[edit]

The sense of "dish, platter" survives in compounds like scuttle-dish (a large dish).

Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Borrowed from Middle French escoutille (compare French écoutille), from Old Norse skaut (corner of a cloth, of a sail)[1], or alternatively from Spanish escotilla, ultimately from Gothic 𐍃𐌺𐌰𐌿𐍄𐍃 (skauts, projecting edge, fringe), from Proto-Germanic *skautaz (corner; wedge; lap). Compare German Schoß[2], Old English sċēat. More at sheet.


scuttle (plural scuttles)

  1. A small hatch or opening in a boat, sometimes one used for draining water from open deck.
    • 1928, Lawrence R. Bourne, chapter 7, in Well Tackled![1]:
      The detective kept them in view. He made his way casually along the inside of the shelter until he reached an open scuttle close to where the two men were standing talking. Eavesdropping was not a thing Larard would have practised from choice, but there were times when, in the public interest, he had to do it, and this was one of them.
  2. (construction) A hatch that provides access to the roof from the interior of a building.
  • (hatch that provides access to the roof): roof hatch


scuttle (third-person singular simple present scuttles, present participle scuttling, simple past and past participle scuttled)

  1. (transitive, nautical) To cut a hole or holes through the bottom, deck, or sides of (as of a ship), for any purpose.
  2. (transitive) To deliberately sink one's ship or boat by any means, usually by order of the vessel's commander or owner.
    The Vichy French fleet in Toulon in 1942 scuttled itself as a final "fuck you" to the invading Germans.
    • 1863, Charles Reade, Hard Cash[2]:
      "My men, the schooner coming up on our weather quarter is a Portuguese pirate. His character is known; he scuttles all the ships he boards, dishonours the women, and murders the crew."
    • 2002, Richard Côté, Theodosia Burr Alston: Portrait of a Prodigy, Corinthian Books, published 2002, →ISBN, page 325:
      In this version, the Patriot was boarded by pirates (or the crew and passengers were overpowered by mutineers), who murdered everyone and then looted and scuttled the ship.
    • 2003, Richard Norton Smith, The Colonel: The Life and Legend of Robert R. McCormick, 1880-1955, Northwestern University Press, published 2003, →ISBN, page 238:
      To lay the foundation for an all-weather dock at Shelter Bay, he filled an old barge with worn-out grindstones from the Thorold paper mill, then scuttled the vessel.
    • 2007, Michael Mueller, Canaris: The Life and Death of Hitler's Spymaster, Naval Institute Press, published 2007, →ISBN, page 17:
      He decided that before scuttling the ship to prevent her falling into enemy hands he had to get the dead and wounded ashore.
    • 2009, Nancy Toppino, Insiders' Guide to the Florida Keys and Key West, Insiders' Guide, published 2009, →ISBN, page 227:
      In recent years, steel-hull vessels up to 350 feet long have been scuttled in stable sandy-bottom areas, amassing new communities of fish and invertebrates and easing the stress and strain on the coral reef by creating new fishing and diving sites.
  3. (transitive, by extension) To deliberately wreck one's vehicle (of any sort).
    • 1958 November 19, Civil Aeronautics Board, “Analysis”, in Aircraft Accident Report: American Airlines, Inc., Convair 240, N 94213, New Haven, Connecticut, March 1, 1958[3], retrieved 25 November 2022, page 4:
      The third and equally important fact is that at the time of gear retraction more than ample runway remained to brake to a successful stop and even had there been a fire in the left engine no necessity existed for scuttling the aircraft.
  4. (transitive, by extension) To undermine or thwart oneself or one's position or property, especially deliberately.
    Synonyms: destroy, wreck
    Coordinate term: scupper
    The candidate had scuttled his chances with his unhinged outburst.
    • 1994 December 16, Richard W. Stevenson, “Financial Merger Is Scuttled”, in The New York Times[4], →ISSN:
      The proposed merger of the Morgan Stanley Group and the S. G. Warburg Group collapsed today, scuttling plans by the companies to create one of the world's most powerful investment banks.
    • 2011 June 24, John Upton, “Fusion Experiment Faces New Hurdles”, in The New York Times[5], →ISSN:
      But the $3.5 billion ignition facility, derided by some critics as taxpayer-financed science fiction, is running into new challenges that may further delay and perhaps scuttle its goal.
    • 2014, Astra Taylor, chapter 4, in The People's Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age, Henry Holt and Company, →ISBN:
      By pushing for such an extreme and indefensible position, the old-media moguls sparked a tremendous outcry, which caused the legislation to be redrafted and then scuttled, at least temporarily

Etymology 3[edit]

See scuddle.


scuttle (third-person singular simple present scuttles, present participle scuttling, simple past and past participle scuttled)

  1. (intransitive) To move hastily, to scurry.
Usage notes[edit]

The word "scuttle" carries a crab-like connotation, and is mainly used to describe panic-like movements of the legs, akin to crabs' leg movements.



scuttle (plural scuttles)

  1. A quick pace; a short run.
    • 1712 November 25 (Gregorian calendar), [Joseph Addison], “FRIDAY, November 14, 1712”, in The Spectator, number 536; republished in Alexander Chalmers, editor, The Spectator; a New Edition, [], volume VI, New York, N.Y.: D[aniel] Appleton & Company, 1853, →OCLC:
      She scarce gave me time to return her salute, before she quitted the shop with an easy scuttle, and stepped again into her coach
Derived terms[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Le Robert pour tous, Dictionnaire de la langue française, Janvier 2004, p. 360, écoutille
  2. ^ scuttle”, in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, Springfield, Mass.: G. & C. Merriam, 1913, →OCLC.