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[taf-reyl, -ruh l] /ˈtæfˌreɪl, -rəl/
noun, Nautical
the upper part of the stern of a ship.
a rail above the stern of a ship.
Origin of taffrail
1805-15; syncopated variant of taffarel; -ai- spelling Dutch -ee- Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for taffrail
Historical Examples
  • Captain Barker stood by the taffrail with one eye upon the galley and his face turned in profile to his friend.

    The Blue Pavilions Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch
  • There he lay like a log, as dumb as the man whom he had left clinging to the taffrail.

    Labrador Days Wilfred Thomason Grenfell
  • She leaned against the taffrail, enjoying the cool breeze after hours of sultry heat.

  • Then he stepped to the taffrail and looked down at the gig, which had been passed astern.

    Turned Adrift Harry Collingwood
  • Then he cautiously moved to the taffrail, and with a single toss flung Mike Murphy clear of the launch.

  • A small neat moulding at the foot of the taffrail over the light.

    The Sailor's Word-Book William Henry Smyth
  • Astern towed a dingy; from the taffrail flew the American flag.

    Our Navy in the War Lawrence Perry
  • Captain Snaggs at once jumped up on the taffrail on our hailing her.

    The Island Treasure John Conroy Hutcheson
  • They first appeared streaming out of the cabin windows, curling upwards round the taffrail.

    Peter the Whaler W.H.G. Kingston
  • With the idea of gaining time she walked rapidly aft to the taffrail.

    The Rescue Joseph Conrad
British Dictionary definitions for taffrail


noun (nautical)
a rail at the stern or above the transom of a vessel
the upper part of the transom of a vessel, esp a sailing vessel, often ornately decorated
Word Origin
C19: changed (through influence of rail1) from earlier tafferel, from Dutch taffereel panel (hence applied to the part of a vessel decorated with carved panels), variant of tafeleel (unattested), from tafeltable
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 taffrail

1814, alteration of tafferel "upper panel on the stern of a ship (often ornamented)" (1704), earlier, "a carved panel" (1620s), from Dutch tafereel "panel for painting or carving," dissimulation from *tafeleel, diminutive of tafel "table," from the general West Germanic borrowing of Latin tabula "slab, board" (see table (n.)). The word developed in Dutch from the custom of ornamenting the high, flat stern of old sailing ships; spelling and sense altered in English by influence of rail (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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