gun·​wale ˈgə-nᵊl How to pronounce gunwale (audio)
variants or less commonly gunnel
: the upper edge of a ship's or boat's side
to the gunwales
: as fully as possible
The doorbell rang, and Flanagan let in his wife, who was loaded to the gunwales with groceries.Whitney Balliett

Examples of gunwale in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Our red test Raider was decked out to the gunwales but didn't cost a second mortgage. Rich Ceppos, Car and Driver, 1 July 2023 Wisely, the designers added gunwale handhelds from the cockpit to the tip of the boat. Kevin Koenig, Robb Report, 19 Apr. 2023 Each model features sleek lines, sculpted gunwales around the bow and glazing that runs from hull to superstructure. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 15 Feb. 2023 The upper arm extends diagonally across your body as though delivering a cross-punch and finishes on the outside of the gunwale (top edge of the canoe). Michael Stillwell, Popular Mechanics, 27 Mar. 2023 The first: The boat had a glass transom and open gunwales to both port and starboard that made the cockpit feel larger than its actual physical dimensions. Kevin Koenig, Robb Report, 21 Mar. 2023 The weight of that many passengers caused rising waves to lap at the tops of the gunwale — the lone protector against catastrophic swamping. Bryce Miller Columnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 Oct. 2021 But if the cormorants are being hunted, what explains the presence on each boat of an unperturbed bird perched on the gunwale? Washington Post, 23 June 2021 On a recent visit, shipwright Matteo Tamassia, whose gondolas can take a month or more to construct, discussed an improvement to the gunwale with a fellow boat-maker who dropped by. Avedis Hadjian, The Christian Science Monitor, 4 June 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'gunwale.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English gonne-wale, from gonne gun + wale entry 1; from its former use as a support for guns

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of gunwale was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near gunwale

Cite this Entry

“Gunwale.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


variants also gunnel
: the upper edge of a ship's side

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