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Definition of Divot:

(1) a piece of turf cut out of the ground by a golf club in making a stroke.

(2) a small hole left by something.

(sample usage): "After getting my wisdom teeth extracted, they left a small divot in my gums to heal."

As a native English speaker, I would commonly use the word "divot" to explain a small hole left by something. Evidently, this is not a common definition of the word.

What can explain this usage I hear so often?

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  • Can you help us understand what needs to be explained exactly. For one thing, are you saying "divot" is not common -- or is common (you hear so often)?
    – MetaEd
    Oct 27, 2017 at 20:41
  • Your question requires refining.What are you asking? If it is origin of the word "divot", you should plainly ask for that. Thanks
    – J. Taylor
    Oct 27, 2017 at 21:04
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    Just in case anyone is totally confused by this question, This is the sort of thing the OP is referring to. Shape dough into balls that are about 1½" in diameter (you should have 10). Working one at a time, flatten into a pancake and make a divot in the center. Place ½ tsp. prune filling in divot and wrap dough over. Roll into a smooth ball, pinching together any holes.
    – Phil Sweet
    Oct 27, 2017 at 21:17
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    Oxford Dictionaries Online attests also: "divot - A small hole made by the removal of a divot." The use of it to describe a small hole made by the removal of something else would be figurative.
    – MetaEd
    Oct 27, 2017 at 21:27
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    Interestingly, MW Online cites Bon Appetit for "Working one at a time, flatten into a pancake and make a divot in the center" as a "recent example of DIVOT from the Web," and yet does not budge on its definitions of divot. Both U.S. dictionaries seem to be fighting current real-world usage on this point, although the extent of that usage remains unclear.
    – Sven Yargs
    Oct 27, 2017 at 21:52

1 Answer 1

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In its entry for divot, Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2013) does not include any meaning that is at all similar to "a small hole left by something." The MW definitions focus on the material removed, rather than on the resulting void:

divot n. {alter. of earlier Sc devat, fr. ME (Sc) duvat} (1586) 1 Scot : a square of turf or sod 2 : a loose piece of turf (as one dug from a golf fairway in making a shot)

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, fifth edition (2010) shares the Eleventh Collegiate's understanding of the term:

divot n. 1. A piece of turf torn up by a golf club in striking a ball, or by a horse's hoof. 2. Scots A thin square of turf or sod used for roofing. {Scots, a turf.}

It is not at all surprising that a person hearing the statement "Your last golf stroke left a divot" might suppose that the divot was the gash in the earth and not the clump of turf torn out of it. Nevertheless, the two dictionaries I consulted have not yet conceded that "small hole" is a correct application or interpretation of the word.

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    But the phrase "replace your divot" probably ought to clue them in.
    – Phil Sweet
    Oct 27, 2017 at 20:58
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    WordNet 3.0 is one source that has the definition "(golf) the cavity left when a piece of turf is cut from the ground by the club head in making a stroke; "it was a good drive but the ball ended up in a divot", and this appears on the results page at Onelook and in the thesaurus portion of The Free Dictionary. Not that I'm persuaded. Oct 27, 2017 at 21:26
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    And as MetaEd found at what is usually my first stop, ODO.... "1.1 A small hole made by the removal of a divot. ‘if your ball finds a divot to rest in’" with sample uses. So, you know, language is always a-changing. Oct 27, 2017 at 21:32
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    Cambridge: "a small hole in an area of grass, especially one made by a golf club (= stick for hitting) or ball; a piece of grass that has been cut out, leaving such a hole" Oct 27, 2017 at 21:39
  • Also see this: golfchannel.com/news/golf-central-blog/… With a photo of a ball in a "fairway divot." So it seems that in use are divot as the chunk taken out of the ground; divot as the hole left, and also "divot hole." As @Clare said, always a-changing.
    – Xanne
    Oct 28, 2017 at 1:06

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