Today’s Origin

Mainly a US expression meaning gossip or idle chatter; dates in this sense from the late 19th/early 20th century. Originally, from the late 18th/early 19th century, scuttlebutt was a nautical word from scuttle, meaning a hatch or lid and butt, meaning a cask or barrel. In those days, a scuttlebutt was the barrel of drinking water, with a lid, on the deck of ships from which sailors used to drink. While gathered round the scuttlebutt, sailors would engage in idle chatter and the meaning was gradually transferred from the water cask to the chatter or gossip around it. On board US Navy ships today, scuttlebutt is still a term for a water-drinking fountain.