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or gunnel

[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
Historical Examples
  • Now and then Nick dipped his fingers into the cold water over the gunwale.

    Master Skylark John Bennett
  • They seized her by the gunwale, raised her and laid her keel on a roller.

    Lady Bountiful George A. Birmingham
  • Another inch and the stream would be over the gunwale, and those fellows would be pitched into the net and drowned.

    The Swan and Her Crew George Christopher Davies
  • Eustace called him as we jumped into his boat, and rang our soldi on the gunwale.

    New Italian sketches John Addington Symonds
  • I remember the smack heeling over, and me standing on the gunwale pushing against the ship's side as if I hoped to bear her off.

    Rewards and Fairies Rudyard Kipling
  • The knee-pieces at the fore-part on the outside at the height of the gunwale.

    The Sailor's Word-Book William Henry Smyth
  • The three men forward grasped the gunwale and were saved, but the officer and the fourth man went down stream.

  • If ye hang to the gunwale, is it my fault an ye be drowned in my foundering if I founder?'

    Privy Seal Ford Madox Ford
  • She clutched at the gunwale of the boat until she hurt her hands, and strained her eyes for the sight she longed to see.

    Troublesome Comforts Geraldine Glasgow
  • He lay upon a seat near the stern of the boat, with his feet on the gunwale.

    Up The Baltic Oliver Optic
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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