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

  • n. A submarine of the German navy.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Any German submarine of the First or Second World War, or any Austro-Hungarian submarine of the First World War.

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

  • n. a submersible warship usually armed with torpedoes


Translation of German U-Boot, short for Unterseeboot : unter, under (from Middle High German under, from Old High German untar; see n̥dher- in Indo-European roots) + See, sea (from Middle High German , from Old High German) + Boot, boat.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
A calque of German U-Boot. (Wiktionary)



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  • The Jews who went underground in Germany in the 1940s to escape the Nazis called themselves "U-boats," a self-mocking reference to the country's efficient and effective fleet of submarines. But the comparison was as apt as it was sardonic, because to remain underground required much the same degree of wile, stealth and courage as that employed by the crews of the submarines. Some of the Jews who had gone underground were able to remain sequestered until the end of the war. But the majority, like the submarines, had constantly to surface and prowl about. . . . Only infrequently were the majority of Jewish "U-boats" able to remain in their safe harbors for months.
    Leonard Gross The Last Jews in Berlin (1992), p. 113
    ". . . a hint that you were a U-boat yourself."

    Joseph Kanon, The Good German ( ), p. 107
    "We thought it was safe. She had papers. Safe."

    Jake looked at him, surprised. A U-boat trail, Gunther helping.
    Id., p. 266.
    Gunther had moved his wife fourteen times. But he had had papers and friends prepared to help. No U-boat could survive alone. Where, after all, would she have gone?
    Id., p. 270
    "Marthe must have thought she was in hiding too. Another U-boat. . . ."
    . . .
    "It was dangerous to be recognized. They tortured the U-boats sometimes, to find the others, to get names."
    Id., p. 280.

    January 28, 2016