An annoying burden: “That old car is an albatross around my neck.” Literally, an albatross is a large sea bird. The phrase alludes to Samuel Taylor Coleridge‘s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” in which a sailor who shoots a friendly albatross is forced to wear its carcass around his neck as punishment.
A heavy burden of guilt that becomes an obstacle to success, as in The failed real estate scheme became an albatross around her neck, for now she could not interest other investors in a new project. This idiom comes from Samuel Coleridge’s narrative poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798), which is based on the widespread superstition that it is unlucky to kill this large white sea bird. In the poem a sailor does kill an albatross, and when the ship then is becalmed near the equator and runs out of water, his shipmates blame him and force him to wear the dead bird around his neck.