What Does Albatross Around One’s Neck Mean?

Albatross Around One’s Neck Meaning

Definition: A heavy burden one carries, especially one that accompanies significant guilt.

The idiom albatross around one’s neck refers to a heavy burden someone carries, especially a burden that torments someone incessantly. This idiom comes from the 19th-century poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Origin of Albatross Around One’s Neck

Unlike many idioms in English, this one has a traceable etymology. The idiom originated in Samuel Coleridge’s famous poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

define albatross around your neckThe poem tells the tale of an old seaman who, while on a sea voyage, kills an albatross with his crossbow. In nautical lore, albatrosses are a sign of good fortune, and killing one is meant to bring bad luck.

The crew of the ship forces the old seaman to wear the albatross’s carcass around his neck, which is meant to serve as a reminder of his misdeed. The seaman is then cursed and is forced to watch all his fellow crew members die. The curse is lifted when he realizes that he should appreciate sea life, rather than regarding it as “slimy” as he did earlier in the poem.

After this happens, the seaman kneels to pray, and the albatross falls from his neck. This signifies that his burden and guilt have been lifted.

Examples of Albatross Around One’s Neck

albatross around your neck meaningThis idiom is not commonly used in everyday speech. However, this example exchange between two coworkers illustrates how this phrase might be used by native speakers.

Jean: Have you figured out what you’re going to do about your affair?

Mindy: Yes. I’ve decided to end it. It’s the albatross around my neck.

More Examples

  • Yes, sometimes monogamy can itself be an albatross around one’s neck. – NY Post


The English phrase albatross around one’s neck refers to the heavy burden one carries. It originated from the famous English poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Coleridge.