bul·​wark | \ ˈbu̇l-(ˌ)wərk How to pronounce bulwark (audio) , -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

Both of these bulwarks aren’t as strong as a couple of years ago—consumers are more indebted and a separate campaign against off-balance sheet infrastructure fundraising is still crimping investment. Nathaniel Taplin, WSJ, "China Risks Real Hard Landing This Time," 23 Jan. 2019 That support stretched beyond his base to other minority sects in Syria and some middle- and upper-class Sunnis who regard his family rule as a bulwark of stability in the face of Islamic radicals. Sarah El Deeb, The Seattle Times, "Syria’s Assad: Last man standing amid new Arab uprisings," 13 Apr. 2019 The Trump administration hopes the new organization will become a bulwark against Iran, but progress toward the new formation has been slow in part because of the schism with Qatar. Jared Malsin, WSJ, "Pompeo Urges Gulf States to Resolve Dispute, Unite Against Iran," 13 Jan. 2019 The assumption was that rebuilding the economies of the rest of Europe was critical not just to averting political crisis there, but to building a bulwark of democratic, market-economy allies to forestall further Soviet expansion. Ned Temko, The Christian Science Monitor, "US-Europe ties and the audacity of July 1948," 9 July 2018 An economically thriving, stable Saudi Arabia is the best bulwark against Iranian ambitions in the Gulf. Karen Elliott House, WSJ, "Rethinking Saudi Arabia," 30 Nov. 2018 Since being nominated to the Court by President Reagan in 1988, Kennedy served as an inconsistent but important bulwark against some of the court’s greater right-wing excesses. Jill Filipovic, Time, "America Will Lose More Than Abortion Rights If Roe v. Wade Is Overturned," 28 June 2018 David Koch’s departure will change the makeup of one of the most active and well-funded political forces in the country that has been a bulwark in not just supporting but setting the Republican agenda – although not necessarily President Trump’s. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "David Koch is leaving Koch Industries, stepping down from Americans for Prosperity," 5 June 2018 The authority’s 174,000 units of below-market housing have been a bulwark against further displacement even as swaths of the city have gentrified in recent decades. Laura Kusisto, WSJ, "City Nears Deal to Sell Stake in Two Public-Housing Complexes," 27 Dec. 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

Noun and Verb

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

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Dictionary Entries near bulwark





bulwark plating


Bulwer's petrel

Statistics for bulwark

Last Updated

29 May 2019

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

formal : 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 How to pronounce bulwark (audio) \

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

Comments on bulwark

What made you want to look up bulwark? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to move with exaggerated bouncy motions

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