1 of 2


: a long pole with a broad blade at one end used for propelling or steering a boat
oared adjective


2 of 2


oared; oaring; oars

intransitive verb

: to progress by or as if by using oars

transitive verb

: to propel with or as if with oars : row

Example Sentences

Noun “All oars ho!” the boatswain ordered Verb since the wind had completely died, they had to oar the sailboat back to shore
Recent Examples on the Web
All the streets are dark, the houses identical, in the sky ragged clouds race, and huge flocks, wings creaking like oars, migrate to the safety of the mind. D. Nurkse, The New York Review of Books, 4 May 2023 Pinkston coach Derek Lewis has a reason for having the oar out. Rick Kretzschmar, Dallas News, 15 Sep. 2022 The two winning teams were awarded with an engraved wooden oar, said O'Donnell. Marina Johnson, Detroit Free Press, 19 Mar. 2023 Some ride it out in luxury, others without an oar. David Z. Morris, Fortune, 5 Mar. 2021 What did the oar say to the other? Olivia Muenter, Woman's Day, 19 Jan. 2023 Red ro-o-o-oar! Vladimir Sorokin, The New Yorker, 27 Sep. 2021 Its arms are designed to take you through your full-range of motion—just like pulling an oar—which is great for shoulder mobility and muscle endurance. Emily Shiffer, Women's Health, 20 Mar. 2023 The cover showed a man and a woman each holding an oar. Hua Hsu, The New Yorker, 20 Mar. 2023
Mute swans do put on bursts of speed by oaring with their huge webbed feet. National Geographic, 19 Oct. 2016 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'oar.' 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 oore, ore, going back to Old English ār, going back to dialectal Germanic *airō (whence Old Norse ár "oar"), of uncertain origin

Note: The presumed etymon *airō is attested only in Scandinavian Germanic and Old English; it is apparently a loanword from Scandinavian into Finnic languages (North Saami áiru "oar," Finnish airo, Estonian aer). The Germanic word has been compared with Greek oíāx "handle of a rudder, tiller" oiḗïon "tiller, rudder," Homeric oíēkes "appurtenance on a yoke," Sanskrit īṣā́ "shaft, thill," Hittite hišša-, Czech oj, Slovene ojệ, ojệsa, all going back to Indo-European *h2(o)iH-s- "pole, shaft" (with the meaning "rudder" apparently secondary in Greek). However, if *airō goes back to *aizō the expected Old Norse outcome would be *eir rather than ār; additionally, the sense shift from "shaft of a cart" to "oar" is not unobjectionable.


Middle English oren, derivative of ore oar entry 1

First Known Use


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

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

Dictionary Entries Near oar

Cite this Entry

“Oar.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oar. Accessed 28 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
ˈō(ə)r How to pronounce oar (audio)
: a long pole with a broad blade at one end used for rowing or steering a boat
ˈō(ə)rd How to pronounce oar (audio)


2 of 2 verb

More from Merriam-Webster on oar

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