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[spin-uh-ker] /ˈspɪn ə kər/
noun, Nautical.
a large, usually triangular sail carried by a yacht as a headsail when running before the wind or when the wind is abaft the beam.
Origin of spinnaker
1865-70; said to be alteration of Sphinx, name of the first yacht making regular use of this sail Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for spinnaker
Historical Examples
  • She laid the duck down again and covered it, a little regretfully, with the spinnaker.

    Priscilla's Spies George A. Birmingham
  • "There's plenty of room on spinnaker for both of us, I think," Parker replied, quietly.

  • "A spinnaker boom always goes forward of the shrouds and you lead the guy aft outside them," he said.

  • Such a spinnaker will be more effective than a big (p. 301) one on an ocean cruise.

    Yachting Vol. 1 Various.
  • A half-hour later the young engineer had established his spinnaker terminal point, and was running his lines.

  • With our spinnaker "set" we just skimmed homeward, reaching Warren in an hour.

  • Priscilla hurriedly turned over the corner of the spinnaker and got out the jam pot.

    Priscilla's Spies George A. Birmingham
  • A jackyard topsail that requires no topmast can be set, and a spinnaker will be found very useful for running in light weather.

    Yachting Vol. 1 Various.
  • Marston saw the lights for a few moments when the spinnaker soared away from the boom.

    Wyndham's Pal Harold Bindloss
  • Her spinnaker collapsed like a torn balloon, but Red Rose leaped on, pressed by straining sail.

    Wyndham's Pal Harold Bindloss
British Dictionary definitions for spinnaker


/ˈspɪnəkə; nautical ˈspæŋkə/
a large light triangular racing sail set from the foremast of a yacht when running or on a broad reach
Word Origin
C19: probably from spin + (mo)niker, but traditionally derived from Sphinx, the yacht that first adopted this type of sail
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 spinnaker

"large triangular sail," 1866, either a derivative of spin in the sense of "go rapidly" or a corrupt pronunciation of Sphinx, which was the name of the first yacht known to carry this type of sail.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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