Albatross Around Neck: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
January 14, 2024

The phrase "albatross around neck" is often used metaphorically to describe a heavy burden of guilt or a troublesome, lasting obstacle that hinders success. It implies carrying a significant weight or responsibility that is difficult to rid oneself of.

In short:

  • It symbolizes a heavy and persistent burden or obstacle.
  • It is associated with guilt, responsibility, or a lasting problem.

What Does "Albatross Around Neck" Mean?

The phrase "albatross around neck" comes from the literary reference to a burden one must carry, often due to a mistake or misdeed. It describes a situation where someone is burdened by a problem or responsibility that is hard to resolve or let go of. For example, if someone made a costly mistake in their past that continues to affect their life, it might be referred to as an "albatross around their neck." This phrase underscores the weight of carrying ongoing challenges or regrets.

More about the phrase's meaning:

  • It's typically used to describe burdens that are emotionally or psychologically taxing.
  • The phrase can apply to various contexts, including personal relationships, professional challenges, or past mistakes.
  • It often implies a sense of regret or guilt associated with the burden.
  • It is commonly used in both spoken and written language, especially in literary contexts.
  • Similar expressions include "carrying a burden," "a monkey on one's back," and "a cross to bear."

Where Does "Albatross Around Neck" Come From?

The expression "albatross around one's neck" originates from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." In this literary work, an albatross follows a ship and is initially seen by the crew as a sign of good luck. However, when the mariner kills the bird with a crossbow, it is perceived as a terrible mistake, bringing misfortune to the ship and its crew. As punishment, the mariner is forced to wear the dead albatross around his neck, symbolizing the heavy burden of guilt he must bear. This imagery has evolved into the modern usage of the phrase, indicating a persistent and troublesome problem or guilt reminiscent of the mariner's ordeal in Coleridge's poem.

10 Examples of "Albatross Around Neck" in Sentences

To help you understand when to use this phrase, here are some examples from different situations:

  • No worries,” she said, but the debt was like an albatross around her neck.
  • She felt the weight of an albatross around her neck when thinking about her student loan debt.
  • It’s been a long journey, and the guilt of past mistakes felt like an albatross around his neck.
  • For the failing restaurant, the expensive lease was like an albatross around their neck.
  • Her unresolved feelings for her ex were an albatross around her neck in new relationships.
  • The team's early success became an albatross around their neck as expectations rose unrealistically high.
  • Being there for a friend can lift the albatross around their neck, providing them with much-needed support and comfort.
  • Her decision not to attend college was like an albatross around her neck when she sought new jobs.
  • Let’s circle back to the main issue, which has become an albatross around our necks, preventing us from making progress.
  • Sometimes, what is meant to be a blessing can turn into an albatross around your neck if you’re not prepared to handle it.

Examples of "Albatross Around Neck" in Pop Culture

This phrase is also used in pop culture, often to depict characters dealing with long-standing issues or burdens.

Here are some examples:

  • The book “The Albatross Around the Neck of Albert Ross” is a collection of strange stories for wild children.
  • An online article titled “An Albatross Around your Neck: Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City” discusses the book “Zoo City” by Lauren Beukes.
  • In the movie “The Fog”, there is a line: "Something that one lives with like an albatross round the neck. No, more like a millstone. A plumbing stone, by God! Damn them all!"
  • The song “Albatross” by Foals contains the lyrics: "You got an albatross around your neck, around your neck. You got a hundred broken lightbulbs above your head."
  • The song “Lost and Lonely” by Aaron Lewis contains the lyrics: "I’m an albatross hanging around my own neck."

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Albatross Around Neck"

Here are some alternative phrases that express the same idea:

  • Burden
  • Heavy load
  • Millstone around neck
  • Weight on one's shoulders
  • Monkey on back
  • Cross to bear
  • Encumbrance
  • Ball and chain
  • Heavy burden
  • Anchor

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Albatross Around Neck":

  • What does "albatross around neck" mean?

"Albatross around neck" is a metaphor for a heavy burden of guilt or a difficult problem that one cannot easily get rid of, often due to a past mistake or misdeed.

  • How can I use "albatross around neck" in a sentence?

You can use it to describe a significant problem or guilt that someone is carrying. For example: "The failed project from years ago is still an albatross around his neck."

  • Where does the phrase "albatross around neck" come from?

The phrase originates from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," where an albatross is symbolically tied around the Mariner's neck as a burden of guilt.

  • Can this phrase be used in a positive context?

No, it is typically used in negative contexts to describe burdensome problems or guilt.

  • Is "albatross around neck" a common phrase?

Yes, it's a well-known metaphorical phrase in English, often used in literature and everyday language to describe burdensome problems.

  • Does the phrase always relate to personal guilt?

Not always. While it often relates to guilt, it can also describe any long-lasting, troublesome burden or obstacle.

  • Can it refer to physical burdens?

It's primarily used to describe metaphorical or emotional burdens, rather than physical ones.

  • Are there similar phrases to "albatross around neck"?

Yes, similar phrases include "a millstone around one's neck" and "a monkey on one's back."

  • Is this phrase used in modern language?

Yes, it is still used in modern language, particularly in formal or literary contexts.

  • Can this phrase be used in professional settings?

Yes, it can be used in professional settings to describe a significant ongoing problem or a past decision that continues to have negative effects.

Final Thoughts About "Albatross Around Neck"

The phrase "albatross around neck" is a powerful metaphor for describing a significant, lingering burden, often associated with guilt or a difficult problem. It's a useful expression in both literary and everyday language to convey the weight of carrying long-standing challenges.

To recap:

  • Represents a significant emotional or metaphorical burden.
  • Often used in contexts of guilt, regret, or persistent problems.
  • Originates from a literary source but is widely used in modern language.
  • Applicable in both personal and professional settings.

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