AskDefine | Define doldrums

Dictionary Definition



1 a state of inactivity (in business or art etc); "economic growth of less than 1% per year is considered to be economic stagnation" [syn: stagnation, stagnancy]
2 a belt of calms and light winds between the northern and southern trade winds of the Atlantic and Pacific [syn: the doldrums]

User Contributed Dictionary





  • a UK /ˈdɒl.dɹʌmz/ /"dQl.drVmz/


  1. A part of the ocean near the equator, abounding in calms, squalls, and light, baffling winds, which sometimes prevent all progress for weeks; -- so called by sailors
  2. ( the state of boredom, malaise, apathy or lack of interest; a state of listlessness ennui, or tedium
    I was in the doldrums yesterday and just didn't feel inspired.

See also

Extensive Definition

The doldrums is a colloquial expression derived from historical maritime usage. The Doldrums (often capitalized when referring to the geographic region) is an area of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean affected by the Intertropical Convergence Zone, a low-pressure area around the equator where the prevailing winds are calm. The low pressure is caused by the heat at the equator, which makes the air rise and travel north and south high in the atmosphere, until it subsides again in the horse latitudes. Some of that air returns to the Doldrums through the trade winds. This process can lead to light or variable winds and more severe weather, in the form of heavy squalls, thunderstorms and hurricanes. This region is also noted for calm periods when the winds disappear altogether, or are light and shifting. Because of the unpredictable weather patterns, the Doldrums became notorious with sailors because this region's periods of deadly calm could trap boats for days or weeks on end as they waited for enough wind to power their sails.
In colloquial usage, "being in the doldrums" refers to being in a state of listlessness, despondency, inactivity, stagnation, or a slump.

Doldrums in literature

The Pacific doldrums were famously described in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in the following stanzas:
All in a hot and copper sky, The bloody Sun, at noon, Right up above the mast did stand, No bigger than the Moon.
Day after day, day after day, We stuck, nor breath nor motion; As idle as a painted ship Upon a painted ocean.
doldrums in German: Kalmen
doldrums in Modern Greek (1453-): Ζώνη τροπικών νηνεμιών
doldrums in Dutch: Doldrum

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

anticyclone, antitrades, apathy, blahs, blue devils, blues, boredom, calm, cold storage, dead calm, deathlike calm, dejection, depression, disinterest, dismals, dolefuls, dormancy, dumps, ennui, flat calm, gloom, horse latitudes, inactivity, indifference, intermission, interruption, latency, listlessness, lull, megrims, mopes, mulligrubs, mumps, oily calm, polar easterlies, prevailing westerlies, quiescence, quiescency, retardation, roaring forties, slump, stagnation, sulks, suspension, trade wind, trades, wind-equator, windlessness, yawn
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