An Albatross Around One’s Neck

Meaning of “An Albatross Around One’s Neck”

The phrase “an albatross around one’s neck” refers to a similar phrase, “a weight around one’s neck.” Albatross is considered a heavy bird. The weight in this phrase has been replaced with albatross. Therefore, it means a person has some serious issue which like a weight or burden he/she has to carry with them. In other words, the phrase points to a person’s bad luck.

Origin of “An Albatross Around One’s Neck”

There is no printed record of the phrase’s first usage. However, it is stated that it has been used in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by S. T. Coleridge where he has mentioned the bird, albatross. The poem was published in 1798, and the following verse has the phrase in a different form:

“Ah. well a-day. what evil looks
Had I from old and young
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.”

Examples in Literature

Example #1

The Albatross Around My Neck by Oti Egwu

Two steps forward
And flight of stairs backwards;
My expectations were devoid of detours
But easy rides without contours.

For it started off as a sweet song,
Now it roars in raging storm,
Leaving me bare and stupefied
Like a gordian knot yet untie.

Fantasies in country miles away from home
seemed realistic,
Until the misery of nocturnal mystery,
Unguarded amity,
Life’s melee,
And a year’s effort less kingly
Doled out sensations of reality check’
That there’s an albatross around my neck.

These struggles are no mere litmus test.
Beneath it lies stellar progress,
And within the ranks of my choices are no regrets.
So, what albatross around my neck?
The one swerving me into the pantheons of the greats.

Oti Egwu tells about a girl takes two steps forward to improve her living as a migrant in the foreign land. However, she also makes a full flight of stairs backward when she faces problems. She has harbored fantasies of foreign lands. However, now they have turned into an albatross around her neck. Due to this weight, she is carrying, she cannot go back or leave those dreams. She doesn’t complain anymore and hopes for a single stroke of luck to make her great.

Example #2

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Till a great sea-bird, called the Albatross, came through the snow-fog, and
was received with great joy and hospitality.

At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came ;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God’s name.

It ate the food it ne’er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit ;
The helmsman steered us through!

And lo ! the Albatross proveth a bird of good omen, and followeth the ship
as it returned northward through fog and floating ice.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is the first poem or literary piece which has shown how an albatross has become a symbol of a burden on somebody. It also shows how this bird has been used in a phrase and become an idiomatic expression used vastly in the English language. On the other hand, the bird is also seen as a sign of good omen.

Example #3

Albatross Around the Neck by Anterrabae

I’m leaving this place with the cloths on my back
as if everything old were new again
I only said what you already knew, what you were thinking
there’s color in your sadness, in the way you move
like a pale yellow shining through a dirty white
what moves you like words that you love
(and our heart beat in our fingertips, without reason)
what captivates you to watch the ice melt
you’re offending motion, you are nothing but wings
I’ll tear them off
at least I have the everlasting novelty of uninhabited sensation
and the pleasure of uncertainty
what moves you like words that you love?
(and our heart beat in our fingertips without reason)
what captivates you to watch the ice melt
offending motion, you’re nothing but wings
offending motion, I’ll tear them off.
How many caesars have I been?
Every cadaver sacred, every cadaver critical
This world isn’t mine, it’s me
my conscience is nothing but a blot of ink
on a sheet of paper, tearing us apart.
One day the bitter angels of our character will string us back together
and two will become one.

The song is an extended metaphor of its title which has shown the use of this phrase. The singer expresses how love becomes an albatross or a weight for a person when they separate. The poet has beautifully repeated that though he can tear apart his beloved, one day, the angels of their character will meet and become one again. He also hopes that one day the weight, will be gone and they will be together.

Example #4

Gold Coast by James Alan McPherson

I assured her that I would do it at the slightest provocation from Sullivan, finally accepted an apple but refused the money she offered, and escaped back to my mopping. Even then she watched me, smiling, from her half-opened door.

“Why does, Miss O’ Hara hate you?” I asked James once.

He lifted his cigaretted hand and let the long ash fall elegantly to the floor. “That old bitch has been an albatross around my neck ever since I got here,” he said. “Don’t trust her, Robert. It was her kind that sat around singing hymns and watching them burn saints in this state.”

This paragraph has been taken from the short story ‘Gold Coast’. The narrator describes her work of mopping the floor and asking James about Miss O’ Hara. In response, he uses this phrase to state that the old lady has become rather a burden on him, which he wants to get rid of but could not. The phrase is used with a bit of advice to Robert, the narrator, that he should not trust in her strong religious beliefs.

Examples in Sentences

Example #1: “John is an albatross around my neck as he depends on me about financial issues.”

Example #2: “When you cheat someone, and your conscience doesn’t agree, the guilt will be an albatross around your neck. You better confess and come clean to get rid of this unwanted weight.”

Example #3: “His friend declared Ronny as an albatross around his neck because Ronny always depends on him to do his laundry and cooking.”

Example #4: “If you have something in your heart, let it out. Don’t carry your pain like an albatross around your neck.”

Example #5: “Tia wanted to be a singer but chose to be a florist to support her mother. Since she left her dream behind, the guild weighs like an albatross around her neck.”