ballast /ˈbaləst/


I. noun [ mass noun]

1. heavy material, such as gravel, sand, or iron, placed in the bilge of a ship to ensure its stability.

the hull had insufficient ballast.
2. a heavy substance carried in an airship or on a hot-air balloon to stabilize it and jettisoned when greater altitude is required.

a forty kilo sandbag was used as ballast.
3. something providing stability or substance

the film is an entertaining comedy with some serious ideas thrown in for ballast.
4. gravel or coarse stone used to form the bed of a railway track or the substratum of a road.

a thick layer of railway ballast.
5. a mixture of coarse and fine aggregate for making concrete.
6. [ count noun] a passive component used in an electric circuit to moderate changes in current.

ballasts are permanently wired into existing fixtures.
[as modifier]
ballast resistors.
II. verb [with obj.]

1. give stability to (a ship) by putting a heavy substance in its bilge.

the vessel has been ballasted to give the necessary floating stability.

‹figurative› people insufficiently ballasted with factual information.

2. form (the bed of a railway line or the substratum of a road) with gravel or coarse stone.

the track was laid with rails and ballasted with earth.
III. phrases

in ballast
(of a ship) laden only with ballast.
– origin mid 16th cent.: probably of Low German or Scandinavian origin.

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