1. a shelflike sleeping space, as on a ship, airplane, or railroad car.
  2. Nautical.
    1. the space allotted to a vessel at anchor or at a wharf.
    2. the distance maintained between a vessel and the shore, another vessel, or any object.
    3. the position or rank of a ship’s officer.
    4. the cabin of a ship’s officer.
  3. a job; position.
  4. a place, listing, or role: She clinched a berth on our tennis team.

verb (used with object)

  1. Nautical.
    1. to allot to (a vessel) a certain space at which to anchor or tie up.
    2. to bring to or install in a berth, anchorage, or moorage: The captain had to berth the ship without the aid of tugboats.
  2. to provide with a sleeping space, as on a train.

verb (used without object)

  1. Nautical. to come to a dock, anchorage, or moorage.

  1. give a wide berth to, to shun; remain discreetly away from: Since his riding accident, he has given a wide berth to skittish horses.


  1. a bed or bunk in a vessel or train, usually narrow and fixed to a wall
  2. nautical a place assigned to a ship at a mooring
  3. nautical sufficient distance from the shore or from other ships or objects for a ship to manoeuvre
  4. give a wide berth to to keep clear of; avoid
  5. nautical accommodation on a ship
  6. informal a job, esp as a member of a ship’s crew


  1. (tr) nautical to assign a berth to (a vessel)
  2. nautical to dock (a vessel)
  3. (tr) to provide with a sleeping place, as on a vessel or train
  4. (intr) nautical to pick up a mooring in an anchorage

1620s, “convenient sea room” (both for ships and sailors), of uncertain origin, probably from bear (v.) + abstract noun suffix -th (2) as in strength, health, etc. Original sense is preserved in phrase to give (something or someone) wide berth. Meaning “place on a ship to stow chests, room for sailors” is from 1706; extended to non-nautical situations by 1778.


1660s, of ships, from berth (n.). Of persons (intransitive), from 1886. Related: Berthed; berthing.

see give a wide berth to.

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