Definitions

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

  • n.pl. A period of stagnation or slump.
  • n.pl. A period of depression or unhappy listlessness.
  • n.pl. A region of the ocean near the equator, characterized by calms, light winds, or squalls.
  • n.pl. The weather conditions characteristic of these regions of the ocean.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. 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
  • n. the state of boredom, malaise, apathy or lack of interest; a state of listlessness ennui, or tedium

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n.pl. 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.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Low spirits; the dumps: as, he is in the doldrums.
  • Nautical, certain parts of the ocean near the equator that a bound in calms, squalls, and light baffling winds; also, the calms or variations of weather characteristic of those parts.

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

  • n. a belt of calms and light winds between the northern and southern trade winds of the Atlantic and Pacific
  • n. a state of inactivity (in business or art etc)

Etymologies

From obsolete doldrum, dullard, alteration (influenced by tantrum) of Middle English dold, past participle of dullen, to dull, from dul, dull; see dull.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Goidelic doltrum ("grief, vexation") (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Conservatives have built up the myth of Reagan as being well-loved throughout his presidency, but he hit the same midterm doldrums Obama now finds himself in, and for almost exactly the same reason -- the economy was in the same doldrums, and it wasn't recovering fast enough to do the president any good politically.

    Chris Weigant: Obama Poll Watch -- September, 2010

  • They could have added that the Academy, in doldrums at the time, was ill-equipped for the sensitive task.

    The Nobel Prize in Literature

  • "We're looking for that magic they call the doldrums," she says.

    NPR Topics: News

  •   Yet questions over Rove’s role in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame have proven troublesome for a White House already struggling under the weight of second term doldrums and worries about the war in Iraq.

    The Riddle of Rove

  • "The second-term doldrums have really set in," said a White House aide.

    On Condition of Anonymity

  • The French called the doldrums the pot au noir, the “pitch pot,” a black hole that sucked up mariners and never let go.

    A Furnace Afloat

  • Another symptom alarming to those who were familiar with the different stages of his doldrums was his increasing politeness and a tendency to use formal phrases.

    Heart of the West [Annotated]

  • He caught -- his nurse could not tell how -- a complaint common to the people of Nomansland, called the doldrums, as unpleasant as measles or any other of our complaints; and it made him restless, cross, and disagreeable.

    The Little Lame Prince

  • The globe-girdling belt called the doldrums is 20 degrees wide, and the thread called the equator lies along the middle of it.

    Following the Equator — Part 1

  • Nomansland, called the doldrums, which made him restless, cross and disagreeable.

    The Little Lame Prince Rewritten for Young Readers by Margaret Waters

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Comments

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  • The region of calm winds, centered slightly north of the equator and between the two belts of trade winds, which meet there and neutralize each other. It is widely assumed that the phrase "in the doldrums" is derived from the name of this region. Actually, it's the other way about. In the 19th century, "doldrum" was a word meaning "dullard; a dull or sluggish fellow."

    The region now called the the Doldrums wasn't named until the mid-19th century, and the naming came about as the result of a misapprehension. When reports of ships that were becalmed in that region described them as being "in the doldrums," it was mistakenly thought that the reports were describing their location rather than their state. -- from The Phrase Finder

    February 20, 2008

  • If you're in the doldrums you're down in the dumps

    September 24, 2007