1 [keel]
Nautical. a central fore-and-aft structural member in the bottom of a hull, extending from the stem to the sternpost and having the floors or frames attached to it, usually at right angles: sometimes projecting from the bottom of the hull to provide stability.
Literary. a ship or boat.
a part corresponding to a ship's keel in some other structure, as in a dirigible balloon.
(initial capital letter) Astronomy. the constellation Carina.
Botany, Zoology. a longitudinal ridge, as on a leaf or bone; a carina.
Also called brace molding. Architecture. a projecting molding the profile of which consists of two ogees symmetrically disposed about an arris or fillet.
verb (used with object), verb (used without object)
to turn or upset so as to bring the wrong side or part uppermost.
Verb phrases
keel over,
to capsize or overturn.
to fall as in a faint: Several cadets keeled over from the heat during the parade.
on an even keel, in a state of balance; steady; steadily: The affairs of state are seldom on an even keel for long.

1325–75; 1895–1900 for def 8; Middle English kele < Old Norse kjǫlr; cognate with Old English cēol keel, ship; see keel2

keeled, adjective Unabridged


2 [keel]
noun British Dialect.
a keelboat load of coal; the amount of coal carried by one keelboat.
a measure of coal equivalent to 21 long tons and 4 hundredweight (21.5 metric tons).

1375–1425; late Middle English kele < Middle Dutch kiel ship; cognate with Old English cēol ship, German kiel ship (obsolete), keel1


3 [keel]
verb (used with object) British Dialect.
to cool, especially by stirring.

before 900; Middle English kelen, Old English cēlan to be cool; akin to cool


4 [keel]
a red ocher stain used for marking sheep, lumber, etc.; ruddle.

1475–85; earlier keyle (north and Scots dial.); compare Scots Gaelic cìl (itself perhaps < E) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
keel1 (kiːl)
1.  one of the main longitudinal structural members of a vessel to which the frames are fastened and that may extend into the water to provide lateral stability
2.  on an even keel well-balanced; steady
3.  any structure corresponding to or resembling the keel of a ship, such as the central member along the bottom of an aircraft fuselage
4.  biology a ridgelike part; carina
5.  a poetic word for ship
6.  to capsize
[C14: from Old Norse kjölr; related to Middle Dutch kiel,keel²]

keel2 (kiːl)
1.  a flat-bottomed vessel, esp one used for carrying coal
2.  a measure of coal equal to about 21 tons
[C14 kele, from Middle Dutch kiel; compare Old English cēol ship]

keel3 (kiːl)
1.  red ochre stain used for marking sheep, timber, etc
2.  to mark with this stain
[Old English cēlan, from cōlcool]

keel4 (kiːl)
an archaic word for cool
[C15: probably from Scottish Gaelic cīl]

keel5 (kiːl)
a fatal disease of young ducks, characterized by intestinal bleeding caused by Salmonella bacteria
[C19: from keel1; see keel over]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

"lowest timber of a ship or boat," mid-14c., from O.N. kjölr "keel," from P.Gmc. *keluz, of uncertain origin. Etymologists say this is unconnected with the root of M.Du. kiel "ship," O.E. ceol "ship's prow," O.H.G. kiel, Ger. Kiel "ship," but the two words have influenced each other. This other
word is said to be from P.Gmc. *keula, from PIE *geul- "rounded vessel." Keel still is used locally in England and U.S. for "flat-bottomed boat," especially on the Tyne. To keel over (1876) is from the nautical image of a ship turning keel-up. Keelhaul is 17c. from Du. kielhalen "to haul under the keel," an old punishment. The verb is 1838, Amer.Eng., from the noun.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


In addition to the idiom beginning with keel, also see on an even keel.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
Designed to keep the yacht stable and upright under sail, the keel takes the
  place of crew members sitting on the windward rail.
He said the boat's hull was too thin and the backing plate that attaches the
  keel to the hull was too narrow.
They need to run bigger budget surpluses to put their finances on an even keel.
On solid ground, the wings would swing into clamshell compartments, protected
  by a steel keel.
Idioms & Phrases
Image for keel
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