Sea change

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The term sea change dates to the early 1600s, though its use as an idiom began in earnest in the latter-1800s. We will examine the definition of the expression sea change, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

A sea change is a complete transformation, a radical change of direction in attitude, goals, government, business, etc. The expression sea change is derived from the play The Tempest, produced by William Shakespeare in 1610: “Full fathom five thy father lies; Of his bones are coral made; Those are pearls that were his eyes: Nothing of him that doth fade/ But doth suffer a sea-change/ Into something rich and strange. Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell.” At one time the term sea change was rendered with a hyphen, but the Oxford English Dictionary lists the term as two separate words, without a hyphen.


That type of rhetoric is a sea change from the Obama years, when many Democrats angered teachers by talking less about core issues of schools funding than about expanding the number of charter schools, or using student test scores to evaluate teachers and remove ineffective ones from the classroom. (The New York Times)

Greg Hartman, the Portland lawyer who has represented the PERS Coalition of public employees for decades, said the loss of the director and board chair is a “sea change” for the system. (The Statesman Journal)

Whether all this enthusiasm translates into a sea change in the number of women elected to office remains to be seen. (The Christian Science Monitor)