I found in the free dictionary the various meanings of plumb as a verb and mainly it seems to have the meaning of explore/study/delve into.

However, within the title of an article of the International Herald Tribune (Aug. 11, 2011), namely Spanish case plumbs trans-Atlantic divide on Web privacy, it seems to have the meaning trigger. Is that right?

  • Can you check the link? I can't find that article you linked to.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 9:14
  • @Alenanno : I found the article in the web site of IHT but it has a different title. The link is goo.gl/JNDzL. However the title in the printed version is as above. There's another copy of the article on-line at goo.gl/tpWNU but again with slightly different title! The link I posted works here. Should I change it? Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 9:31
  • I did. It's all working now. :P
    – Alenanno
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 9:33
  • 1
    Possibly they changed it because it's a poor headline and even contains a basic error in "trans-Atlantic". It should be transatlantic.
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 10:59
  • 1
    I would like to know how 'trigger' can be a possible meaning here. I do not see 'trigger' in any context. Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 15:21

2 Answers 2


Plumb is "measure the depth of", and shares a root with "plumb" meaning "connect pipework" -- both come from the latin plumbium, meaning "lead", as a lead weight at the end of a string was an instrument for measuring the depth of a body of water, while pipes were once made of lead.


Personally I think it's a play on words: The title originally was Spanish case plumbs depth of trans-atlantic [sic] divide on Web privacy. Plumb here means to measure the depth of a body of water;

I don't think it means trigger, you had it correctly the first time: exploring, using the first example on the free dictionary; http://www.thefreedictionary.com/plumb (edit)

For those who are confused, I used THIS website: http://e.mydigitalfc.com/PUBLICATIONS/DCF/DCF/2011/08/11/ArticleHtmls/Fight-for-the-right-to-be-forgotten-11082011161005.shtml ; (where the screenshot is from) in order to answer the question, in the comments below the question someone put in the correct link (It was correct for me, I couldn't open the other websites), and THAT is the link to the article I based my answer on. As you can see, it DOES say 'plumbs depth'. I did not change the title. Screenshot website

  • Note that it does not say "plumb the depths". This is an idiom that has a meaning quite different from plumb.
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 10:57
  • divide has a depth. Continental divide and Plumb/Plumbs the divide
    – mplungjan
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 11:31
  • @mplungian That's another mistake, it's not in the print edition. That is to misuse the idiom entirely, it makes no sense at all, and "plumb the divide" is obscure, I would say in fact it is another mistake.
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 11:46
  • That is your opinion only. To me it makes utter and completely sense. I read: This case will measure how deep the divide is between European and American law on web privacy.
    – mplungjan
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 11:50

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