1 of 5

verb (1)

keeled; keeling; keels

intransitive verb

: to fall in or as if in a faint
usually used with over
keeled over from exhaustion
of a boat or ship : to heel or lean precariously


2 of 5

noun (1)

: the chief structural member of a boat or ship that extends longitudinally along the center of its bottom and that often projects from the bottom
also : this projection
: ship
: a projection suggesting the keel of a boat or ship: such as
: an anatomical process forming a ridge (as on the sternum of a bird) : carina sense 1
botany : the lower part of a papilionaceous flower (as of a pea or bean plant) that consists of two fused petals, lies between the wings (see wing sense 2e(2)), and encloses the pistil and stamens
The keel, the lowest petal of the pea-like flower, is short and rounded.Sylvan T. Runkel and Dean M. Roose
keeled adjective
keelless adjective


3 of 5

noun (2)

: a flat-bottomed barge used especially on the Tyne to carry coal


4 of 5

verb (2)

keeled; keeling; keels
chiefly dialectal
: cool


5 of 5

noun (3)

chiefly dialectal

Examples of keel in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Although the democratic process can help keep foreign policy on an even keel, the role of voters is limited. Elizabeth N. Saunders, Foreign Affairs, 20 Feb. 2024 Marco Chilena commenced work on two of the yachts, building the hull and part of the aluminum superstructure on the 236-footer and laying the keel for the 256-footer, before the yard had serious financial troubles. Julia Zaltzman, Robb Report, 3 Mar. 2023 Typically, the Fed tries to keep the economy running at an even keel: lowering rates to stoke borrowing and spending and speed things up when growth is weak, and raising them to cool growth down to make sure that demand does not overheat and push inflation higher. Jeanna Smialek, New York Times, 30 Jan. 2024 The Dutch yard just laid the keel of a custom 187-footer with a layout unlike any other fleet member. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 22 Dec. 2023 The keel was rotten and needed to be completely rebuilt; what sat on the platform was really just a hull with a mast. Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, 8 Jan. 2024 The keel laying of Setteesettanta took place at the Heesen yard in Oss on December 14. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 22 Dec. 2023 Then in ’06 with years of salt coating her steel Bunker Hill received new aegis upon her keel. Anna Mulrine Grobe, The Christian Science Monitor, 2 Jan. 2024 Her keel was laid in September 2020, but Lürssen has divulged very little about the vessel up until this point. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 27 Oct. 2023
Meditation is something that really keeps me even keeled. Chris Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter, 17 July 2023 Throughout the ups and downs for the Chicago Bulls this season, coach Billy Donovan has tried to keep his demeanor even keel for the most part. Jamal Collier,, 20 Mar. 2021 In 1628, the Swedish warship keeled over and sank just minutes after setting sail on its maiden voyage. Christopher Parker, Smithsonian Magazine, 10 Apr. 2023 If the program ends before those pension funds shore up their cash reserves to deal with plummeting bond prices, the funds could very rapidly keel over. Alan Murray, Fortune, 12 Oct. 2022 Otherwise healthy workers keel over at their desks after a long stretch of overtime or after consummating a high-pressure deal, usually from a stroke or heart attack. Bryan Robinson, Forbes, 1 June 2022 Pewaukee can keel it out and will do so. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 19 Nov. 2021 But Logan didn’t need to keel over on Josh’s estate for his own weakness to be revealed. Scott Tobias, Vulture, 7 Nov. 2021 Summoning their inner thespians, possums keel over when cornered, allowing their mouths to gape open in apparent death. Doug MacCash | Staff Writer,, 23 Dec. 2020 See More

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

Word History


Noun (1) and Verb (1)

Middle English kele, from Old Norse kjǫlr; akin to Old English ceole throat, beak of a ship — more at glutton

Noun (2)

Middle English kele, from Middle Dutch kiel; akin to Old English cēol ship

Verb (2)

Middle English kelen, from Old English cēlan, from cōl cool

Noun (3)

Middle English (Scots) keyle

First Known Use

Verb (1)

1832, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Verb (2)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Noun (3)

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of keel was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near keel

Cite this Entry

“Keel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
: a timber or plate that runs lengthwise along the center of the bottom of a ship and usually sticks out from the bottom
: something (as the breastbone of a bird or the lower two petals of a pea flower) that is like a ship's keel in form or use


2 of 2 verb
: to turn (a ship or boat) over

Medical Definition


: acute septicemic salmonellosis or paratyphoid of ducklings marked by sudden collapse and death of apparently healthy birds

called also keel disease

More from Merriam-Webster on keel

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