1. a large white seabird with long narrow wings
2. a score of three strokes under par in a hole of golf
Origin and usage
The word albatross is likely derived from the Portuguese or Spanish word ‘albatros’, based on the word ‘alcatraz’ meaning ‘large, web-footed seabird’. The English spelling was probably influenced by the Latin word ‘albus’ meaning ‘white’. Albatross first appeared in English around 1670.
Albatross is a noun that most often refers to a large, white seabird with webbed feet and the largest wingspan of any bird species. The albatross can be found flying over oceans all around the world.
Because an albatross has such a massive wingspan – some albatross species can spread their wings more than two metres wide – it is able to glide on ocean breezes, sometimes for hours without resting or flapping its wings. Albatrosses eat a diet of squid and fish, though they have also been known to follow ships at sea, hoping for a meal of handouts from sailors or debris tossed overboard. Like some other seabirds, the albatross can drink salt water without getting sick.
One well-known albatross is the world’s oldest bird. Scientists have named her Wisdom, and she is a Laysan albatross that is believed to be about 65 years old. She returns to a wildlife refuge in the North Pacific Ocean near Hawaii each year to nest and lay her eggs. Wisdom the albatross was first tracked to the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in 1956!
“Ah! Well a-day! What evil looks / Had I from old and young! / Instead of the cross, the Albatross / About my neck was hung.”
(Samuel Taylor Coleridge, from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner)