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[furl] /fɜrl/
verb (used with object)
to gather into a compact roll and bind securely, as a sail against a spar or a flag against its staff.
verb (used without object)
to become furled.
the act of furling.
something furled, as a roll.
furl in a body, Nautical. to furl (a square sail) with loose canvas gathered at the mast, so as to make a harbor furl.
furl in the bunt, Nautical. to furl (a square sail) by gathering canvas upward, so as to load the yard equally at all points.
Origin of furl
1550-60; compare Middle French ferler in same sense, perhaps representing Old French ferlier to chain, fasten, equivalent to fer firm (< Latin firmus) + lier to bind (< Latin ligāre)
Related forms
furlable, adjective
furler, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for furling
Historical Examples
  • He would go aloft in a gale or in a calm, and lend a hand at reefing or furling as promptly as any man in the ship.

    Jack in the Forecastle John Sherburne Sleeper
  • The order for men to come in from the yards after reefing or furling.

    The Sailor's Word-Book William Henry Smyth
  • While they talked they were furling the Eleanor's sails, and soon they were ready to go ashore.

  • The order to come in from the yards when reefing, furling, or other duty is performed.

    The Sailor's Word-Book William Henry Smyth
  • furling sail, for the wind had been fair to-day, we turned and were towed back to Fort St. Julian, where we moored for the night.

    An Autobiography Elizabeth Butler
  • At length she stood into the bay, and, furling her sails, came to an anchor.

    The Heir of Kilfinnan W.H.G. Kingston
  • The long ribbon fluttered in the air, furling and unfurling it gracefully descended.

    Watch Yourself Go By Al. G. Field
  • But when the ship's in port who cares to wait for the furling of the sails?

    Against Odds Lawrence L. Lynch
  • The order to lift the studding-sail boom-ends while the top-men move out on the yards, preparatory to reefing or furling.

    The Sailor's Word-Book William Henry Smyth
  • With the furling of the white flag they were enemies once more.

British Dictionary definitions for furling


to roll up (an umbrella, a flag, etc) neatly and securely or (of an umbrella, flag, etc) to be rolled up in this way
(transitive) (nautical) to gather in (a square sail)
the act or an instance of furling
a single rolled-up section
Derived Forms
furlable, adjective
furler, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Old French ferlier to bind tightly, from ferm tight (from Latin firmusfirm1) + lier to tie, bind, from Latin ligāre
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 furling



1550s, of uncertain origin, possibly from Middle French ferler "to furl," from Old French ferliier "chain, tie up, lock away," perhaps from fer "firm" (from Latin firmus; see firm (adj.)) + -lier "to bind" (from Latin ligare). Related: Furled; furling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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