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[bou-sprit, boh-] /ˈbaʊ sprɪt, ˈboʊ-/
noun, Nautical
a spar projecting from the upper end of the bow of a sailing vessel, for holding the tacks of various jibs or stays and often supporting a jib boom.
Origin of bowsprit
1300-50; Middle English bouspret < Middle Low German bōchspret (cognate with Dutch boegsprit) (bōch bow3 + spret pole, cognate with Old English sprēot) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for bowsprit
Historical Examples
  • The wind still increasing, at seven the first reef in the mainsail was also taken in, jibs shifted, and the bowsprit reefed.

  • I told the mate to light a Bengola on the heel of the bowsprit.

    Up the River Oliver Optic
  • The pole sticks out like the bowsprit of a ship, and contains as much wood and iron work as would go to a small waggon.

    Gatherings From Spain Richard Ford
  • As soon as she showed her bowsprit beyond it, I was to give the word to cast off.

    Up the River Oliver Optic
  • Adams, the sailmaker, killed one of these latter gentry with a harpoon, spearing him from the bowsprit as he came past the ship.

    Afloat at Last John Conroy Hutcheson
  • Her bowsprit pointed, like the lance of a knight, at the power of England.

    The Art of Disappearing John Talbot Smith
  • The succeeding day the injured schooner was cleared of everything, even to her spars, the lower masts and bowsprit excepted.

    The Sea Lions James Fenimore Cooper
  • The anchor attached to the bowsprit had done what was desired.

  • From it are Page 164made stringer-plates, chocks of the bowsprit, coamings of the hatchways, strakes and stanchions for the decks.

  • A term denoting the ropes, blocks, &c., belonging to the bowsprit.

    The Sailor's Word-Book William Henry Smyth
British Dictionary definitions for bowsprit


(nautical) a spar projecting from the bow of a vessel, esp a sailing vessel, used to carry the headstay as far forward as possible
Word Origin
C13: from Middle Low German bōchsprēt, from bōchbow³ + sprēt pole
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for bowsprit

"spar extending from the bow of a ship," late 13c., probably from Middle Low German bochspret, from boch "bow of a ship" (see bow (n.2)) + spret "pole" (cf. Old English spreot "pole," Dutch spriet "spear;" see sprit). French beaupre is a Dutch loan word.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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