albatross

/al"beuh traws', -tros'/, n.
1. any of several large, web-footed sea birds of the family Diomedeidae that have the ability to remain aloft for long periods. Cf. wandering albatross.
2. a seemingly inescapable moral or emotional burden, as of guilt or responsibility.
3. something burdensome that impedes action or progress.
4. Textiles.
a. a lightweight worsted fabric with a crepe or pebble finish.
b. a plain-weave cotton fabric with a soft nap surface.
[1675-85; var. of algatross frigate bird < Pg alcatraz pelican, prob. < Ar al-ghattas a kind of sea eagle, lit., the diver; -b- for -g- perh. by assoc. with L albus white (the bird's color)]

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Any of more than a dozen species of large seabirds (family Diomedeidae).

Albatrosses are among the most spectacular gliders of all birds; in windy weather they can stay aloft for hours without flapping their wings. They drink seawater and usually eat squid. Albatrosses come ashore only to breed, in colonies typically established on remote oceanic islands. Adults of common species attain wingspans of 7–11 ft (200–350 cm). Albatrosses live long and may be among the few birds to die of old age. They were once held in awe by seamen, who held that killing one would bring bad luck.

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bird
 any of more than a dozen species of large seabirds that collectively make up the family Diomedeidae (order Procellariiformes). Because of their tameness on land, many albatrosses are known by the common names mollymawk (from the Dutch for “foolish gull”) and gooney. Albatrosses are among the most spectacular gliders of all birds, able to stay aloft in windy weather for hours without ever flapping their extremely long, narrow wings. In calm air an albatross has trouble keeping its stout body airborne and prefers to rest on the water surface. Like other oceanic birds, albatrosses drink seawater. Although they normally live on squid, they also are seen to accompany ships to feed on garbage.

      Albatrosses come ashore only to breed. This activity occurs in colonies that are usually established on remote oceanic islands, where groups and pairs exhibit mating behaviour that includes wing-stretching and bill-fencing displays accompanied by loud groaning sounds. The single large, white egg, laid on the bare ground or in a heaped-up nest, is incubated by the parents in turn. The growth of the young albatross is very slow, especially in the larger species; it attains flight plumage in 3 to 10 months, then spends the next 5 to 10 years at sea, passing through several pre-adult plumages before coming to land to mate. Albatrosses live long and may be among the few birds to die of old age.

      Seamen once held albatrosses in considerable awe; they held that killing an albatross would bring bad luck, a superstition reflected in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” In spite of this superstition, the birds were often taken on baited hooks by sailors for meat. The foot web could be fashioned into a tobacco pouch, and the long hollow bones were used as pipestems. At one time professional plume hunters even raided breeding grounds. The North Pacific species were slaughtered in large numbers for their feathers, which were used in the millinery trade and as swansdown.

      Some of the best-known albatrosses are the following.

      The black-browed albatross (Diomedea melanophris), with a wingspread to about 230 cm (7.5 feet), wanders far offshore in the North Atlantic; a dark eye-streak gives it a frowning appearance.

      The black-footed albatross (D. nigripes), one of three North Pacific species, has a wingspread to about 200 cm and is largely sooty brown in colour. It nests on tropical Pacific islands and wanders widely throughout the North Pacific.

      The laysan albatross (D. immutabilis), with a wingspread to about 200 cm, has a white body and dark upper-wing surfaces. Its distribution is about the same as the black-footed albatross.

      The royal albatross (D. epomophora), with a wingspread to about 315 cm, is largely white with black outer wing surfaces. It breeds on islands near New Zealand and near the southern tip of South America.

      The sooty albatrosses (Phoebetria, 2 species), with a wingspread to about 215 cm, have wings and a tail that are longer and more slender than in Diomedea. They nest on islands in the southern oceans.

      The wandering albatross (D. exulans) has a wingspread to more than 340 cm (11 feet), the largest spread among living birds. The adult is essentially like the royal albatross. It nests on islands near the Antarctic Circle and on some islands in the South Atlantic, and in the nonbreeding season it roams the southern oceans north to about 30° S.

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • albatross — [al′bə trôs΄, al′bəträs΄] n. pl. albatrosses or albatross [altered, prob. infl. by albus, white < Sp alcatraz, lit., pelican < Port, pelican, orig., bucket < Ar al qādūs, water wheel basket, scoop < Gr kados, cask, jar; prob. < Heb …   English World dictionary

  • Albatross — Al ba*tross, n. [Corrupt. fr. Pg. alcatraz cormorant, albatross, or Sp. alcatraz a pelican: cf. Pg. alcatruz, Sp. arcaduz, a bucket, fr. Ar. al q[=a]dus the bucket, fr. Gr. ka dos, a water vessel. So an Arabic term for pelican is water carrier,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • albatross — (n.) 1670s, probably from Spanish or Portuguese alcatraz pelican (16c.), perhaps derived from Arabic al ghattas sea eagle [Barnhart]; or from Port. alcatruz the bucket of a water wheel [OED], from Arabic al qadus machine for drawing water, jar… …   Etymology dictionary

  • albatross — [n] burden cross to bear, disgrace, load, millstone, misery, woe; concepts 532,690 …   New thesaurus

  • albatross — ► NOUN (pl. albatrosses) 1) a very large seabird with long narrow wings, found chiefly in the southern oceans. 2) a burden or encumbrance (in allusion to Coleridge s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner). ORIGIN alteration (influenced by Latin albus… …   English terms dictionary

  • Albatross — This article is about the bird family. For other uses, see Albatross (disambiguation). Albatross Temporal range: Oligocene–recent …   Wikipedia

  • Albatross — Albatros (englische Schreibweise Albatross) bezeichnet: Albatrosse, eine Familie von Seevögeln eine Punktwertung im Golfsport, siehe Golf (Sport)#Par den Literaturpreis der Günter Grass Stiftung einen Titel für Seeleute, die das Kap Hoorn… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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