keelhaul

verb keel·haul \ ˈkēl-ˌhȯl \
Updated on: 17 Nov 2017

Definition of keelhaul

transitive verb
1 : to haul under the keel of a ship as punishment or torture
2 : to rebuke severely

keelhaul was our Word of the Day on 02/26/2016. Hear the podcast!

Examples of keelhaul in a Sentence

  1. there's no need to keelhaul him—it was an honest mistake, and a small one at that

Recent Examples of keelhaul from the Web

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

The Brutal History of keelhaul

In the mid-1600s, British monarchs were intent on using their powerful navy to expand their empire. Insubordination was not tolerated, and mutinous sailors were disciplined severely to discourage others from similar rebellion. Keelhauling was one of the worst penalties that could befall a renegade mariner. Although they definitely practiced the gruesome punishment, the British did not invent it—the Dutch did. Keelhaul is a translation of the Dutch word kielhalen, which means "to haul under the keel of a ship." Even after the practice was banned on European naval vessels in the mid-1800s, the word keelhaul remained in English as a term for a severe scolding.

Origin and Etymology of keelhaul

Dutch kielhalen, from kiel keel + halen to haul



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