from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Sufficient space for a vessel to maneuver; sea room.
  • noun A space for a vessel to dock or anchor.
  • noun Employment on a vessel.
  • noun A job.
  • noun A built-in bed or bunk, as on a ship or a train.
  • noun A place to sleep or stay; accommodations.
  • noun A space where a vehicle can be parked, as for loading.
  • intransitive verb To bring (a vessel) to a berth.
  • intransitive verb To provide with a berth.
  • intransitive verb To come to a berth; dock.
  • idiom (a wide berth) Ample space or distance to avoid an unwanted consequence.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun An obsolete spelling of birth.
  • Nautical: To assign or allot anchoring-ground to; give space to lie in, as a ship in a dock.
  • To allot a berth or berths to: as, to berth a ship's company.
  • To board; cover with boards: chiefly in ship-building.
  • noun Nautical: Sea-room; space kept or to be kept for safety or convenience between a vessel under sail and other vessels or the shore, rocks, etc.: especially in the phrases, also used figuratively, to give a good, clear, or wide berth to, keep a wide berth of (to keep clear of, keep well away from).
  • noun Room for a vessel to turn around or to ride at anchor.
  • noun A station in which a ship lies or can lie, whether at anchor or at a wharf.
  • noun A room or an apartment in a ship where a number of officers or men mess and reside.
  • noun The shelf-like space allotted to a passenger in a vessel (and hence in a railroad sleeping-car) as a sleeping-place; a sailor's bunk on board ship; a place for a hammock, or a repository for chests.
  • noun A post or an appointment; situation; employment: as, he has got a good berth at last.
  • To find a berth for; provide with a “job” or “situation.”
  • To occupy as living-quarters on shipboard: used with in.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To give an anchorage to, or a place to lie at; to place in a berth.
  • transitive verb To allot or furnish berths to, on shipboard.
  • noun Convenient sea room.
  • noun A room in which a number of the officers or ship's company mess and reside.
  • noun The place where a ship lies when she is at anchor, or at a wharf.
  • noun An allotted place; an appointment; situation or employment.
  • noun A place in a ship to sleep in; a long box or shelf on the side of a cabin or stateroom, or of a railway car, for sleeping in.
  • noun the deck next below the lower gun deck.
  • noun to keep at a distance from it.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A fixed bunk for sleeping in (caravans, trains, etc).
  • noun Room for maneuvering or safety. (Often used in the phrase a wide berth.)
  • noun A space for a ship to moor or a vehicle to park.
  • noun A job or position, especially on a ship.
  • noun sports Position or seed in a tournament bracket.
  • noun sports position on the field of play
  • verb transitive to bring (a ship or vehicle) into its berth
  • verb transitive to assign a berth (bunk or position) to

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a bed on a ship or train; usually in tiers
  • noun a job in an organization
  • verb secure in or as if in a berth or dock
  • verb come into or dock at a wharf
  • noun a place where a craft can be made fast
  • verb provide with a berth


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English birth; perhaps akin to beren, to bear; see bear.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Origin obscure, but apparently from Middle English *berth ("bearing, carriage"), equivalent to bear +‎ -th.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word berth.


  • The other big early test for the title berth comes during the Texas State Fair and the annual clash between Texas and Oklahoma in Dallas.

    In The Bleachers - A College Football Blog and Podcast Ron Juckett 2009

  • Kisla earned his title berth with a 3-1 upset of Canon-McMillan's Sam Brownlee, who is ranked No. 1 in Class AAA in the WPIAL. - News 2009

  • But getting a label berth enabled Mr. Arthur to get his foot in the door, even if he's still trying to get into the Big Room.

    Joseph Arthur's Redemptive Songs 2003

  • The Warriors earned their title berth with a narrow 27-20 win against Franklin Regional (9-3). - News 2010

  • The Buccaneers earned their title berth with a 50-14 win against Kittanning (10-5). - News 2010

  • Hempfield earned its title berth with a 40-31 win against Albert Gallatin (4-3). - News 2010

  • The Blue Devils earned their title berth with a convincing 59-13 win against Keystone Oaks (4-2). - News 2010

  • The Bearcats earned their title berth with a 50-28 semifinal win against Yough. - News 2009

  • West Shamokin earned its title berth with victories against Leechburg (25-4, 25-10, 25-11), - News 2009

  • The Panthers posted a 6-2 victory against No. 8 Moon in the quarterfinals, then earned a title berth with a convincing 14-2 win against No. 4 seed Belle Vernon Area in the semifinals. - News 2009


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • China's industrial sector has way too much childberth.

    June 19, 2009

  • The historical succession of senses of this word is noteworthy, and perhaps the opposite of what one would expect. The original meaning (of unknown origin, c. 1600, perhaps related to 'bear off') is the space needed to avoid collision with another ship or allision with rocks etc. This survives today mainly in 'give a wide berth', which sounds a figurative use, but isn't.

    Then: space sufficient to moor a ship; so a place sufficient to moor a ship; so the place in a harbour where a ship is moored. Then by transference to places inside a ship suitable for stowing objects, and finally a sleeping-place where a sailor himself was stowed. So what seems (to me) like the simplest meaning is in fact the latest in a line of figurations.

    edit: I got collision and allision the wrong way rounf.

    June 19, 2009

  • 'but her boat is still moored at its usual berth' (Radio 4 news)

    December 20, 2009