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[koo-lee] /ˈku li/
Chiefly Western U.S. and Western Canada. a deep ravine or gulch, usually dry, that has been formed by running water.
a small valley.
a low-lying area.
a small intermittent stream.
Geology. a stream of lava.
Origin of coulee
1800-10, Americanism; < Canadian French, French: a flowing, noun use of feminine of coulé, past participle of couler to flow < Latin cōlāre to filter, strain, derivative of cōlum strainer, sieve; cf. colander, portcullis Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for coulee
Historical Examples
  • He rode through the coulee without seeing a single cow and an exploration lasting over an hour resulted no better.

    Hopalong Cassidy Clarence E. Mulford
  • Couldn't see you from down in the coulee when I fired at that bird.

    Land of the Burnt Thigh Edith Eudora Kohl
  • All seven of them fell close around the mouth of the coulee.

    Rising Wolf the White Blackfoot James Willard Schultz
  • There's no trail, an' it's up one coulee an' down another till you get there.

    The Gold Girl James B. Hendryx
  • The grass was brown, the rocky outcroppings of the coulee wall yellow and gray and red—and the river was so blue, and so quiet!

    Lonesome Land B. M. Bower
  • It was the only course to pursue with anyone from Denson coulee.

    Chip, of the Flying U B. M. Bower
  • If the redcoats catch you this side of Barfleur coulee, or in the coulee itself, you'll stand no chance.

    Northern Lights, Complete Gilbert Parker
  • No spear of grass was visible and the rock floor of the coulee was baked and dry.

    Prairie Flowers James B. Hendryx
  • Near the mouth of the coulee he crawled through a wire fence.

    Prairie Flowers James B. Hendryx
  • In the coulee beyond that hill was the spot he had marked for his shelter.

    Corporal Cameron Ralph Connor
British Dictionary definitions for coulee


/ˈkuːleɪ; -lɪ/
  1. a flow of molten lava
  2. such lava when solidified
(Western US & Canadian) a dry stream valley, especially a long steep-sided gorge or ravine that once carried melt water from a glacier
a small intermittent stream in such a ravine
Word Origin
C19: from Canadian French coulée a flow, from French, from couler to flow, from Latin cōlāre to sift, purify; see colander
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 coulee

"deep ravine, seasonally flooded," 1804, a North American word, originally in areas explored by French trappers, from French coulée "flow" (17c.), from fem. past participle of couler "to flow," from Latin colare "to filter, strain" (see colander).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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