bul·​wark | \ˈbu̇l-(ˌ)wərk, -ˌwȯrk;ˈbəl-(ˌ)wərk; sense 3 also ˈbə-ˌläk\

Definition of bulwark 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a solid wall-like structure raised for defense : rampart

b : breakwater, seawall building a bulwark in the harbor

2 : a strong support or protection democratic principles that stand as a bulwark against tyranny a bulwark of freedom

3 nautical : the side of a ship above the upper deck usually used in plural


bulwarked; bulwarking; bulwarks

Definition of bulwark (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to fortify or safeguard with a bulwark ability to bulwark a moral choice— Margaret Mead

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Synonyms & Antonyms for bulwark

Synonyms: Verb

cover, defend, fence, fend, forfend, guard, keep, protect, safeguard, screen, secure, shield, ward

Antonyms: Verb

assail, assault, attack

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Examples of bulwark in a Sentence


democratic principles that stand as a bulwark against tyranny


vowed to use any means necessary to bulwark the country agai nst a terrorist attack

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

For the vast majority of the US government, Eastern Europe is still a region with irreplaceable strategic importance to American interests and is America’s main bulwark against westward Russian expansion. Michal Kranz, Vox, "Why Eastern European countries aren’t attacking Trump over NATO," 26 July 2018 Emissions from the fires were contributing to global warming, it was feared, and the harvesting of wood for cooking was helping to diminish forests, one of nature’s carbon-absorbing bulwarks against greenhouse gases. Sara Morrison, USA TODAY, "In developing world, an expensive push to reduce cooking fire deaths falls short," 13 July 2018 In doing so, Mr. Cuomo, who faces a re-election primary battle in September, continues to position himself as a liberal bulwark to the Trump administration. Jesse Mckinley, New York Times, "As Cuomo Rallies for Abortion Rights, Nixon Questions His Bona Fides," 10 July 2018 As companies deploy encryption and other bulwarks against government prying, law enforcement authorities have grown increasingly frustrated. Jon Schuppe /, NBC News, "The cat-and-mouse fight to fix — and exploit — iPhone's security flaws," 15 June 2018 The party sprang not from trade unions but from elites desperate to establish a bulwark against communism after the end of military rule in the mid-1970s. The Economist, "Social democracy is floundering everywhere in Europe, except Portugal," 12 Apr. 2018 Some supply chains may need to be rerouted away from China, although such interdependence is one bulwark against conflict. Richard N. Haass, WSJ, "The Crisis in U.S.-China Relations," 19 Oct. 2018 Today, Algeria is a bulwark against extremism for the West. Aomar Ouali And Elaine Ganley, Fox News, "Algerian generals, others fired without explanation," 12 Sep. 2018 In a visit to Poland a year ago, the U.S. president hailed the country as a bulwark of Western civilization, which some critics interpreted as a ringing endorsement of the same populist-nationalist style that helped propel Trump to power. Laura King, latimes.com, "Poland sees opportunity and peril in NATO summit and Trump-Putin meeting," 9 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Even Einstein, the prototypical loner, was bulwarked by a vast correspondence of arguing and discussion. Dennis Overbye, New York Times, "Bob Dylan Won. But in Science, the Times They Aren’t A-Changin’.," 31 Oct. 2016

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bulwark.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of bulwark


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for bulwark


Middle English bulwerke, from Middle Dutch bolwerc, from bolle tree trunk + werc work


see bulwark entry 1

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Dictionary Entries near bulwark





bulwark plating


Bulwer's petrel

Statistics for bulwark

Last Updated

11 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for bulwark

The first known use of bulwark was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for bulwark



English Language Learners Definition of bulwark

: something that provides protection for or against something

: a wall that is built for protection

: a wall that is part of a ship's sides and that is above the ship's upper deck


bul·​wark | \ˈbu̇l-wərk \

Kids Definition of bulwark

1 : a solid structure like a wall built for defense against an enemy

2 : something that defends or protects

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More from Merriam-Webster on bulwark

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with bulwark

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for bulwark

Spanish Central: Translation of bulwark

Nglish: Translation of bulwark for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of bulwark for Arabic Speakers

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