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Context:

Shetland is a windswept, barren archipelago a hundred or so miles northeast of mainland Scotland’s northernmost tip. I fell in love with Shetland when I was 16. I had gone there to photograph otters and I’ve been visiting it regularly ever since. It’s very windy a lot of the time and if it’s not raining it’s usually cloudy. However, when the wind settles and the sun comes out, few places on Earth can beat it for beauty. I took this photograph of my friend Henry on just one of those days. Henry had offered to take me out on his boat around the back of the island of Vaila to do a spot of fishing. It was flat calm out at sea and that gave us the chance to go through this arch.

What is the correct meaning of "settle" in this sentence?

  • It's not a very common usage. It doesn't even occur often enough to chart when compared to when the wind dies down. (Even though my search there would also have included any instances of when the wind settles down.) – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 4 '17 at 17:12
  • @FumbleFingers so is that writer's fault? – The Hung Jun 4 '17 at 17:19
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    @The Hung: Fault? Clearly the writer is responsible for his choice of words, if that's what you mean. I'm simply pointing out and providing evidence that it's a relatively uncommon usage. You might wish to bear that in mind if you want to express the same concept yourself in future (I'd have thought most questioners here would rather learn how to use the same English as nearly all native speakers, but of course that's entirely up to you). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 4 '17 at 17:39
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    The wind can settle (down) into a breeze, and it can also settle in a prevailing direction, becoming less blustery. It is a fairly common usage, pace FumbleFingers. It occurs quite frequently in meteorological and nautical texts. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 4 '17 at 17:47
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo: Less commonly, the rain could settle [down] with a similar meaning to OP's context. Not to mention the snow settled, but that has a completely different sense (the snow didn't melt as soon as it hit the ground). Note that I said OP's cite is a relatively uncommon usage (and I'd say I proved that in spades with my NGram link). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 4 '17 at 17:48
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The usage is fairly literal. There are many examples of the use of "settle" to mean in a google search for the word. It means the wind's velocity has greatly decreased, and would typically imply that the velocity was a lot higher earlier. I think the phrase "settle down" might be more common than the word "settle" by itself, though I don't have any quantitative evidence to back that up: it just seems like, if I were to use it in a sentence, I'd more like say the wind is "settling down."

Probably the most common usage of the phrase with this meaning would actually be figurative: if somebody gets overly excited, we might tell him to "settle down." In that case, I can't imagine using it without the auxiliary "down."

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