Word of the Day


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the activity of looking or searching for stuff on the beach

Origin and usage

Beachcombing is a combination of the word ‘beach’, from the Proto-Germanic word ‘bakiz’ meaning ‘loose pebbles of the seashore’, and ‘comb’, from the Old English word ‘cemban’ meaning ‘examine closely’. In English, the combined word beachcombing first appeared around 1840.


Beachcombing is a popular activity for many people who like to spend their holidays at the seashore. Shells, driftwood and sea glass are always intriguing beachcombing finds, but there are plenty of other treasures to be found along the seashore.

Petoskey stones are fossilized bits of prehistoric coral that have been worn round and smooth over millions of years. They can be found on the shores of Lake Michigan in the United States.

Fishing floats are spheres made of hollow glass, sometimes wrapped in rope or nets, that fishermen used to use to keep their nets afloat on the sea. Though glass fishing floats haven’t been used in commercial fishing for decades, lucky beachcombing enthusiasts can still find them.

Petrified lightning can be found on some large beach expanses. When lightning strikes, it instantly melts tiny pieces of quartz in the sand and forms odd-looking, hardened sand formations.

Shark teeth, sand dollars, fishing buoys, old boat parts, fossils, minerals and precious stones like jade, agate and jasper are other popular beachcombing finds.

Beachcombing can be an exciting hobby, but before taking treasures home it is a good idea to check local regulations. Some places have restrictions on what kind of items and how much visitors can remove when beachcombing, whilst other beach communities discourage beachcombing altogether because it can disturb the beach ecosystem or animal habitats.

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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