1 a state of inactivity or stagnation
2 a dull, listless, depressed mood; low spirits
Today this word popped out at me as I imagine there might be lots of people who, due to this third lockdown, are generally feeling ‘down in the doldrums’ yet have probably never even heard the expression.
To me, doldrums feels like another word whose meaning is perfectly suited as it sounds like something which is low and sad.
The origin of the word dates back as far as 1795 and it has been defined as having two separate beginnings. Firstly it came from the word ‘dullard’ meaning dull fellow or ‘dolt’ meaning stupid. Then suffixed with the ending of the word ‘tantrum’ meaning petulant outburst.
Back in 1811 it was also used to describe a region of calm winds, centred slightly north of the equator between two belts of trade winds, which meet and neutralize each other and it was widely assumed that the phrase ‘in the doldrums’ is derived from this area.
In 1824 Lord Byron used the phrase in a nautical context in his tale ‘The Island’:
“From the bluff head where I watch’d to-day I saw her in the doldrums; for the wind was light and baffling”.