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

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 That decision surprised both US forces in South Korea and the South Korean government, which views this cooperation as a bulwark of its alliance with the United States. Mark Landler, BostonGlobe.com, "The summit was unprecedented, the statement vague, and the day historic," 13 June 2018 For almost a half-century, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a potent bulwark against efforts to obstruct Americans’ lawful right to cast a ballot. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "How the Supreme Court Kills Roe v. Wade," 11 July 2018 This still preserves for the Court a large role in protecting fundamental rights and the structure of the separation of powers that is a bulwark against tyranny. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Kavanaugh for the Court," 9 July 2018 Then, the court struck down lower court rulings that allowed public-sector unions, a bulwark of the party, to deduct dues from state and local government workers’ paychecks. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "What are Dems to do about the SupCo?," 27 June 2018 Now, California’s right to go its own way—and other states’ right to follow—has become a bulwark against the EPA’s move to roll back emissions standards. Alex Davies, WIRED, "Colorado Joins California In the Fight for Cleaner Cars," 21 June 2018 Russia may be arming the Taliban as a bulwark against the Islamic State. Gardiner Harris, New York Times, "On Brief Visit, Pompeo Says U.S. Is Afghanistan’s ‘Enduring Partner’," 9 July 2018 In other words, valuing science for pure pleasure is more of a bulwark against the politicization of science than facts alone. Michael Shermer, Scientific American, "Science Denial versus Science Pleasure," 1 Jan. 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

13 Nov 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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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).


playful or foolish behavior

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