To scuttle a ship is to bore a hole in it in order to make it sink. Rather strangely, this word is from the same root as our word shut or bolt (Saxon scyttel, a lock, bolt, or bar). It was first applied to a hole in a roof with a door or lid, then to a hatchway in the deck of a ship with a lid, then to a hole in the bottom of a ship plugged up; then comes the verb to pull out the plug, and leave the hole for the admission of water.
“The Bergen [Norway] fishwomen ... in every direction are coming ... with their scuttles swinging on their arms. In Bergen fish is never carried in any other way.” —H. H. Jackson: Glimpses of Three Coasts, pt. iii. p. 235.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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