in deep water


  1. a transparent, odorless, tasteless liquid, a compound of hydrogen and oxygen, H2O, freezing at 32°F or 0°C and boiling at 212°F or 100°C, that in a more or less impure state constitutes rain, oceans, lakes, rivers, etc.: it contains 11.188 percent hydrogen and 88.812 percent oxygen, by weight.
  2. a special form or variety of this liquid, as rain.
  3. Often waters. this liquid in an impure state as obtained from a mineral spring: Last year we went to Marienbad for the waters.
  4. the liquid content of a river, inlet, etc., with reference to its relative height, especially as dependent on tide: a difference of 20 feet between high and low water.
  5. the surface of a stream, river, lake, ocean, etc.: above, below, or on the water.
  6. waters,
    1. flowing water, or water moving in waves: The river’s mighty waters.
    2. the sea or seas bordering a particular country or continent or located in a particular part of the world: We left San Diego and sailed south for Mexican waters.
  7. a liquid solution or preparation, especially one used for cosmetic purposes: lavender water; lemon water.
  8. Often waters. Medicine/Medical.
    1. amniotic fluid.
    2. the bag of waters; amnion: Her water broke at 2 a.m.
  9. any of various solutions of volatile or gaseous substances in water: ammonia water.
  10. any liquid or aqueous organic secretion, exudation, humor, or the like, as tears, perspiration, or urine.
  11. Finance. fictitious assets or the inflated values they give to the stock of a corporation.
  12. a wavy, lustrous pattern or marking, as on silk fabrics or metal surfaces.
  13. (formerly) the degree of transparency and brilliancy of a diamond or other precious stone.
  14. take water, (of a boat) to allow water to enter through leaks or portholes or over the side.

verb (used with object)

  1. to sprinkle, moisten, or drench with water: to water the flowers; to water a street.
  2. to supply (animals) with water for drinking.
  3. to furnish with a supply of water, as a ship.
  4. to furnish water to (a region), as by streams; supply (land) with water, as by irrigation: The valley is watered by a branch of the Colorado River. Our land is watered by the All-American Canal.
  5. to dilute, weaken, soften, or adulterate with, or as with, water (often followed by down): to water soup; to water down an unfavorable report.
  6. Finance. to issue or increase the par value of (shares of stock) without having the assets to warrant doing so (often followed by down).
  7. to produce a wavy, lustrous pattern, marking, or finish on (fabrics, metals, etc.): watered silk.

verb (used without object)

  1. to discharge, fill with, or secrete water or liquid, as the eyes when irritated, or as the mouth at the sight or thought of tempting food.
  2. to drink water, as an animal.
  3. to take in a supply of water, as a ship: Our ship will water at Savannah.


  1. of or relating to water in any way: a water journey.
  2. holding, or designed to hold, water: a water jug.
  3. worked or powered by water: a water turbine.
  4. heating, pumping, or circulating water (often used in combination): hot-water furnace; city waterworks.
  5. used in or on water: water skis.
  6. containing or prepared with water, as for hardening or dilution: water mortar.
  7. located or occurring on, in, or by water: water music; water frontage.
  8. residing by or in, or ruling over, water: water people; water deities.

  1. above water, out of embarrassment or trouble, especially of a financial nature: They had so many medical bills that they could hardly keep their heads above water.
  2. break water,
    1. to break the surface of the water by emerging from it.
    2. break the surface of the water with the feet, especially in swimming the breaststroke doing the frog kick.
    3. Medicine/ break the amniotic sac prior to parturition.
  3. by water, by ship or boat: to send goods by water.
  4. dead in the water. dead(def 41).
  5. hold water,
    1. to be logical, defensible, or valid: That accusation won’t hold water.
    2. to check the movement of a rowboat by keeping the oars steady with the blades vertical.
  6. in deep water, in great distress or difficulty: Their marriage has been in deep water for some time.
  7. in hot water. hot water.
  8. like water, lavishly; abundantly; freely: The champagne flowed like water.
  9. make one’s mouth water, to excite a desire or appetite for something: The roasting turkey made our mouths water.
  10. make water,
    1. (of a boat) to allow water to enter; leak.
    2. to urinate.
  11. tread water. tread(def 23).

adjective, deep·er, deep·est.

  1. extending far down from the top or surface: a deep well; a deep valley.
  2. extending far in or back from the front or from an edge, surface, opening, etc., considered as the front: a deep shelf.
  3. extending far in width; broad: deep lace; a deep border.
  4. ranging far from the earth and sun: a deep space probe.
  5. having a specified dimension in depth: a tank 8 feet deep.
  6. covered or immersed to a specified depth (often used in combination): standing knee-deep in water.
  7. having a specified width or number of items from front to back (often used in combination): shelves that are 10 inches deep; cars lined up at the entrance gates three-deep.
  8. extending or cutting far down relative to the surface of a given object: The knife made a deep scar in the table.
  9. situated far down, in, or back: deep below the surface; deep in the woods.
  10. reaching or advancing far down: a deep dive.
  11. coming from far down: a deep breath.
  12. made with the body bent or lowered to a considerable degree: a deep bow.
  13. immersed or submerged in or heavily covered with (followed by in): a road deep in mud.
  14. difficult to penetrate or understand; abstruse: a deep allegory.
  15. not superficial; profound: deep thoughts.
  16. grave or serious: deep disgrace.
  17. heartfelt; sincere: deep affections.
  18. absorbing; engrossing: deep study.
  19. great in measure; intense; extreme: deep sorrow.
  20. sound and heavy; profound: deep sleep.
  21. (of colors) dark and vivid: a deep red.
  22. low in pitch, as sound, a voice, or the like: deep, sonorous tones.
  23. having penetrating intellectual powers: a deep scholar.
  24. profoundly cunning or artful: a deep and crafty scheme.
  25. mysterious; obscure: deep, dark secrets.
  26. immersed or involved; enveloped: a man deep in debt.
  27. absorbed; engrossed: deep in thought.
  28. Baseball. relatively far from home plate: He hit the ball into deep center field.
  29. Linguistics. belonging to an early stage in the transformational derivation of a sentence; belonging to the deep structure.


  1. the deep part of a body of water, especially an area of the ocean floor having a depth greater than 18,000 feet (5400 meters).
  2. a vast extent, as of space or time.
  3. the part of greatest intensity, as of winter.
  4. Nautical. any of the unmarked levels, one fathom apart, on a deep-sea lead line.Compare mark1(def 20).
  5. the deep, Chiefly Literary. the sea or ocean: He was laid to rest in the deep.

adverb, deep·er, deep·est.

  1. to or at a considerable or specified depth: The boat rode deep in the water.
  2. far on in time: He claimed he could see deep into the future.
  3. profoundly; intensely.
  4. Baseball. at or to a deep place or position: The outfielders played deep, knowing the batter’s reputation as a slugger.

  1. go off the deep end,
    1. to enter upon a course of action with heedless or irresponsible indifference to consequences.
    2. to become emotionally overwrought.
  2. in deep,
    1. inextricably involved.
    2. having made or committed oneself to make a large financial investment.
  3. in deep water,
    1. in difficult or serious circumstances; in trouble.
    2. in a situation beyond the range of one’s capability or skill: You’re a good student, but you’ll be in deep water in medical school.


  1. extending or situated relatively far down from a surfacea deep pool
  2. extending or situated relatively far inwards, backwards, or sidewaysa deep border of trees
  3. cricket relatively far from the pitchthe deep field; deep third man
    1. (postpositive)of a specified dimension downwards, inwards, or backwardssix feet deep
    2. (in combination)a six-foot-deep trench
  4. coming from or penetrating to a great deptha deep breath
  5. difficult to understand or penetrate; abstruse
  6. learned or intellectually demandinga deep discussion
  7. of great intensity; extremedeep happiness; deep trouble
  8. (postpositive foll by in) absorbed or enveloped (by); engrossed or immersed (in)deep in study; deep in debt
  9. very cunning or crafty; deviousa deep plot
  10. mysterious or obscurea deep secret
  11. (of a colour) having an intense or dark hue
  12. low in pitch or tonea deep voice
  13. go off the deep end informal
    1. to lose one’s temper; react angrily
    2. mainly USto act rashly
  14. in deep water in a tricky position or in trouble
  15. throw someone in at the deep end See end 1 (def. 28)


  1. any deep place on land or under water, esp below 6000 metres (3000 fathoms)
  2. the deep
    1. a poetic term for the ocean
    2. cricketthe area of the field relatively far from the pitch
  3. the most profound, intense, or central partthe deep of winter
  4. a vast extent, as of space or time
  5. nautical one of the intervals on a sounding lead, one fathom apart


  1. far on in time; latethey worked deep into the night
  2. profoundly or intensely
  3. deep down informal in reality, esp as opposed to appearanceshe is a very kind person deep down
  4. deep in the past long ago


  1. a clear colourless tasteless odourless liquid that is essential for plant and animal life and constitutes, in impure form, rain, oceans, rivers, lakes, etc. It is a neutral substance, an effective solvent for many compounds, and is used as a standard for many physical properties. Formula: H 2 ORelated adjective: aqueous Related combining forms: hydro-, aqua-
    1. any body or area of this liquid, such as a sea, lake, river, etc
    2. (as modifier)water sports; water transport; a water plant Related adjective: aquatic
  2. the surface of such a body or areafish swam below the water
  3. any form or variety of this liquid, such as rain
  4. See high water, low water
  5. any of various solutions of chemical substances in waterlithia water; ammonia water
  6. physiol
    1. any fluid secreted from the body, such as sweat, urine, or tears
    2. (usually plural)the amniotic fluid surrounding a fetus in the womb
  7. a wavy lustrous finish on some fabrics, esp silk
  8. archaic the degree of brilliance in a diamondSee also first water
  9. excellence, quality, or degree (in the phrase of the first water)
  10. finance
    1. capital stock issued without a corresponding increase in paid-up capital, so that the book value of the company’s capital is not fully represented by assets or earning power
    2. the fictitious or unrealistic asset entries that reflect such inflated book value of capital
  11. (modifier) astrology of or relating to the three signs of the zodiac Cancer, Scorpio, and PiscesCompare air (def. 20), earth (def. 10), fire (def. 24)
  12. above the water informal out of trouble or difficulty, esp financial trouble
  13. hold water to prove credible, logical, or consistentthe alibi did not hold water
  14. in deep water in trouble or difficulty
  15. make water
    1. to urinate
    2. (of a boat, hull, etc) to let in water
  16. pass water to urinate
  17. test the water See test 1 (def. 5)
  18. throw cold water on or pour cold water on informal to be unenthusiastic about or discourage
  19. water under the bridge events that are past and done with


  1. (tr) to sprinkle, moisten, or soak with water
  2. (tr often foll by down) to weaken by the addition of water
  3. (intr) (of the eyes) to fill with tears
  4. (intr) (of the mouth) to salivate, esp in anticipation of food (esp in the phrase make one’s mouth water)
  5. (tr) to irrigate or provide with waterto water the land; he watered the cattle
  6. (intr) to drink water
  7. (intr) (of a ship, etc) to take in a supply of water
  8. (tr) finance to raise the par value of (issued capital stock) without a corresponding increase in the real value of assets
  9. (tr) to produce a wavy lustrous finish on (fabrics, esp silk)

Old English wæterian (see water (n.1)). Meaning “to dilute” is attested from late 14c.; now usually as water down (1850). To make water “urinate” is recorded from early 15c. Related: Watered; watering.


measure of quality of a diamond, c.1600, from water (n.1), perhaps as a translation of Arabic ma’ “water,” which also is used in the sense “lustre, splendor.”


Old English deop “deep water,” especially the sea, from the source of deep (adj.).


Old English wæter, from Proto-Germanic *watar (cf. Old Saxon watar, Old Frisian wetir, Dutch water, Old High German wazzar, German Wasser, Old Norse vatn, Gothic wato “water”), from PIE *wodor/*wedor/*uder-, from root *wed- (cf. Hittite watar, Sanskrit udrah, Greek hydor, Old Church Slavonic and Russian voda, Lithuanian vanduo, Old Prussian wundan, Gaelic uisge “water;” Latin unda “wave”).

Linguists believe PIE had two root words for water: *ap- and *wed-. The first (preserved in Sanskrit apah) was “animate,” referring to water as a living force; the latter referred to it as an inanimate substance. The same probably was true of fire (n.).

To keep (one’s) head above water in the figurative sense is recorded from 1742. Water cooler is recorded from 1846; water polo from 1884; water torture from 1928. First record of water-closet is from 1755. Water-ice as a confection is from 1818. Watering-place is mid-15c., of animals, 1757, of persons. Water-lily first attested 1540s.


Old English deop “profound, awful, mysterious; serious, solemn; deepness, depth,” deope (adv.), from Proto-Germanic *deupaz (cf. Old Saxon diop, Old Frisian diap, Dutch diep, Old High German tiof, German tief, Old Norse djupr, Danish dyb, Swedish djup, Gothic diups “deep”), from PIE *dheub- “deep, hollow” (cf. Lithuanian dubus “deep, hollow, Old Church Slavonic duno “bottom, foundation,” Welsh dwfn “deep,” Old Irish domun “world,” via sense development from “bottom” to “foundation” to “earth” to “world”).

Figurative senses were in Old English; extended 16c. to color, sound. Deep pocket “wealth” is from 1951. To go off the deep end “lose control of oneself” is slang first recorded 1921, probably in reference to the deep end of a swimming pool, where a person on the surface can no longer touch bottom. When 3-D films seemed destined to be the next wave and the biggest thing to hit cinema since talkies, they were known as deepies (1953).


  1. A clear, colorless, odorless, and tasteless liquid essential for most plant and animal life and the most widely used of all solvents. Freezing point 0°C (32°F); boiling point 100°C (212°F); specific gravity (4°C) 1.0000; weight per gallon (15°C) 8.338 pounds (3.782 kilograms).
  2. Any of the liquids that are present in or passed out of the body, such as urine, perspiration, tears, or saliva.
  3. The fluid that surrounds a fetus in the uterus; amniotic fluid.
  4. An aqueous solution of a substance, especially a gas.

  1. A colorless, odorless compound of hydrogen and oxygen. Water covers about three-quarters of the Earth’s surface in solid form (ice) and liquid form, and is prevalent in the lower atmosphere in its gaseous form, water vapor. Water is an unusually good solvent for a large variety of substances, and is an essential component of all organisms, being necessary for most biological processes. Unlike most substances, water is less dense as ice than in liquid form; thus, ice floats on liquid water. Water freezes at 0°C (32°F) and boils at 100°C (212°F). Chemical formula: H2O.

In addition to the idioms beginning with deep

  • deep down
  • deep end
  • deep pocket
  • deep six
  • deep water

also see:

  • beauty is only skin deep
  • between a rock and a hard place (devil and deep blue sea)
  • go off the deep end
  • in deep
  • still waters run deep

In addition to the idioms beginning with water

  • water down
  • water over the dam

also see:

  • above water
  • backwater
  • blood is thicker than water
  • blow out (of the water)
  • come on in (the water’s fine)
  • dead in the water
  • fish in troubled waters
  • fish out of water
  • head above water
  • hell or high water
  • high-water mark
  • hold water
  • hot water
  • in deep (water)
  • keep one’s head (above water)
  • like water off a duck’s back
  • make one’s mouth water
  • muddy the waters
  • of the first water
  • pour cold water on
  • pour oil on troubled waters
  • still waters run deep
  • take to (like a duck to water)
  • throw out the baby with the bath water
  • tread water
  • you can lead a horse to water

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