What is a Berth?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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Berths are areas designed to offer temporary shelter or protection. There are several different types of these shelters in common use. A berth may be in the form of a place to sleep, an area to moor a boat of some type, or even refer to a general space that is adequate for moving about in safety.

Many people are familiar with the concept of the sleeper berth. In this application, the sleeping area is a small but comfortable space that is set aside for travelers to sleep in relative quiet. Accommodations of this type are offered in addition to seating on trains and small boats. Sleeper berths also exist in motor trailers and caravans. Usually, slepeing berths are equipped with simple curtains that can be pulled to allow privacy as well as minimize noise while the passenger attempts to sleep.


Another type of berth is found in a marina, port, or harbor. The marina berth is a space set aside for a boat or ship to securely dock while at a given port of call. Marinas offer this type of docking space to yachts, small pleasure boats, and even larger vessels such as seagoing ships. It is not unusual for marinas located on rivers and lakes to offer permanent berths for lease to clients who wish to keep a boat in the water during the majority of the year. While a yacht berth is located in the water, it is normally adjacent to a pier, making it very easy to step onto the shore from the boat.

A third application of this term has to do with allowing room to avoid a given situation or individual. Usually known as giving a wide berth, this refers to keeping distance from someone who is considered unpleasant or undesirable, at least for a short period of time. When applied to situations, this definition can mean taking steps to stay away from a specific location, such as a retail shop or a restaurant. For example, someone who is dieting may choose to give a wide berth to the local ice cream parlor.

Whether referring to a ship berth, sleeping accommodations on a train, or simply as an extended geographical area, the idea behind a berth is to provide safety and some measure of comfort. The term implies a place where it is safe to relax without distress, temptation, or inconvenience. When traveling, the use of this small but comfortable place is usually less expensive than securing more elaborate quarters for sleeping or mooring a boat.


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