It's a bird! It's a plane! It's an albatross — in which case it's somewhere between the first two. An albatross is one of the largest flying birds in the world.

The word albatross comes from the Spanish and Portuguese word alcatraz meaning "pelican," but it's not just animals that this word describes. Think of the huge white prison on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco that hindered its inmates from going anywhere, reminding them daily of the guilt and burden of their crime — all feelings that are meant to be conjured by something that's an albatross in a person's life.

Definitions of albatross
  1. noun
    large web-footed birds of the southern hemisphere having long narrow wings; noted for powerful gliding flight
    synonyms: mollymawk
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    Diomedea exulans, wandering albatross
    very large albatross; white with wide black wings
    Diomedea nigripes, black-footed albatross, gooney, gooney bird, goonie, goony
    a variety of albatross with black feet
    type of:
    oceanic bird, pelagic bird
    bird of the open seas
  2. noun
    (figurative) something that hinders or handicaps
    “she was an albatross around his neck”
    synonyms: millstone
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    type of:
    balk, baulk, check, deterrent, handicap, hinderance, hindrance, impediment
    something immaterial that interferes with or delays action or progress
Commonly confused words

Coleridge Vocab: Ever Wonder What "Albatross" Means?

Samuel Taylor Coleridge's oft-quoted ballad "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" gives us albatross as both bird and necklace.

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Word Family

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