Noun & Verb > Sluice

Noun & Verb – Sluice

In Latin, excludere means “to shut out” or “to close off.” This excludere eventually gave us the word “exclude,” as well as the word we’re checking out right now: “sluice.”

A sluice, literally speaking, is a floodgate: a gated structure that controls the flow of water, blocking it or letting through. It might look like a water slide.

Figuratively speaking, a sluice is a stream of something that seems to rush forward, as if released from a gate.

And, when things sluice, they flow out in a rush, as if released from a gate.

And, to sluice something–especially to sluice something from somewhere and into somewhere else–is to let it flow, as if you’re controlling where it goes.

Part of speech:
Sometimes a noun: “this sluice of chemical waste,” “this sluice of lies and rumors.”

Often a verb: “the chemical waste sluiced into a river,” “they sluiced the chemical waste into a river.”

Other forms we use figuratively:
We’ve got “sluices,” “sluiced,” “sluicing,” and the poetic adjective “sluicy.”

And, we can open the “sluice-gates” of something: “She kept a straight face until she got home, then let loose the sluice-gates of laughter.”

how to use it:
Even as it conjures up images of engineering–gates, channels, plugs, and levers–the word “sluice” still sounds poetic and dynamic.

Use it as a fun alternative to words like “pour,” “gush,” “stream,” and “channel.”

Talk about all kinds of liquids that sluice.

And if something is abstract but can flow or pool like a liquid, and if its flow can be controlled by people, it can sluice, too: so we also talk about facts, lies, money, and emotions that sluice.

Finally, we talk about things sluicing from somewhere, into something, across or down something, between things, etc.

“Corruption scarred these [Olympic] Games, as contractors and politicians sluiced hundreds of millions of dollars into their coffers. “
— Michael Powell, New York Times, 23 August 2016

“Listening. … Random asides. Quips. Momentary inspirations uttered and quickly forgotten. They all sluice into the walking, breathing database that is Stephen Miller, the White House wordsmith and behind-the-scenes power broker whose job is to harness the thoughts and ideas of the least tamable of presidents.”
— Manuel Roig-Franzia, Washington Post, 27 January 2018