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See also: water-shed


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From water +‎ shed, a calque of German Wasserscheide, a compound of Wasser (water) + scheiden (to divide).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈwɔːtəʃɛd/
  • (US) enPR: wôʹtərshĕd, IPA(key): /ˈwɔtɚʃɛd/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: wa‧ter‧shed


watershed (plural watersheds)

  1. (hydrology, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand) The topographical boundary dividing two adjacent catchment basins, such as a ridge or a crest.
  2. (hydrology, US, Canada) A region of land within which water flows down into a specified body, such as a river, lake, sea, or ocean; a drainage basin.
  3. A critical point marking a change in course or development.
    • 2021 November 17, Anthony Lambert, “How do we grow the leisure market?”, in RAIL, number 944, page 34:
      Coronavirus has been a watershed for the railways. It has accelerated the decline of season tickets and reduced business travel after years of steadily rising passenger numbers.
  4. (Canada, Britain) The time after which material of more adult nature (violence, swear words, sex) may be broadcast on television or radio, either one laid down or one contrived (e.g. when children are not watching)


Derived terms[edit]



watershed (not comparable)

  1. Serving to mark a significant development, change in direction, etc.
    • 2018, James Lambert, “Anglo-Indian slang in dictionaries on historical principles”, in World Englishes, volume 37, page 251:
      Green's Dictionary of Slang is a watershed publication in the annals of slang lexicography, being, beyond doubt, the most comprehensive scholarly dictionary of slang ever published.