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[guhn-l] /ˈgʌn l/
noun, Nautical
the upper edge of the side or bulwark of a vessel.
the sheer strake of a wooden vessel; the uppermost strake beneath the plank-sheer.
Origin of gunwale
1325-75; Middle English. See gun1, wale1; a plank so called because guns were set upon it Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for gunwale
  • No riding on the bow, gunwale or transom of any vessel.
  • Sitting in any position that is above the gunwale or cap of a vessel while moving above idle speed.
  • Boats had eight willow ribs and a gunwale of willow pole along each side.
  • The line was deployed by stretching it along the vessel's gunwale with weights attached at the end of the line.
  • On a ship, the distance from the waterline to main deck or gunwale.
  • Swamped and with battered gunwale one of the ship's lifeboats tossed against the gravelly beach.
  • It had been hoped that none were killed, but the lifeless bodies of fourteen were seen lying near the gunwale.
  • These two parts of the gunwale give rigidity and strength to the hull.
British Dictionary definitions for gunwale


(nautical) the top of the side of a boat or the topmost plank of a wooden vessel
full to the gunwales, completely full; full to overflowing
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 gunwale

mid-15c., gonne walle, from gun (n.) + wale "plank" (see wale). Originally a platform on the deck of a ship to support the mounted guns.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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