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noun (1)

pan·​ga ˈpäŋ-gə How to pronounce panga (audio)
plural pangas
: any of various small boats often used for fishing
specifically : a skiff with a raised bow that is typically powered by an outboard motor
The water was an ever-shifting palette of blues and greens as we motored across Ascension Bay in a 23-foot panga, the de facto fishing craft for these parts. Chris Santella


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noun (2)

pan·​ga ˈpäŋ-gə How to pronounce panga (audio)

Examples of panga in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
The Coast Guard notified Border Patrol of the panga —a small, low-slung boat — about 8:30 a.m. David Hernandez, San Diego Union-Tribune, 27 July 2023 Border Patrol officials on Wednesday investigated the discovery of two smuggling boats beached in San Diego County, with agents finding an empty panga in Carlsbad and arresting five people in Mission Beach in the second incident. Karen Kucher feb. 9, San Diego Union-Tribune, 9 Feb. 2023 The panga pressed on. New York Times, 28 Jan. 2021 The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department began receiving calls about the two panga fishing boats at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday, according to the San Diego Fire Department. Julia Jacobo, ABC News, 12 Mar. 2023 The panga, and any other migrants involved, were gone by the time authorities arrived. San Diego Union-Tribune, 24 Oct. 2021 Tekae Michael, acting special operations supervisor for the Border Patrol’s San Diego sector, said that no one had been taken into custody from the panga that overturned Sunday. Kate Morrissey, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10 Apr. 2022 Just three weeks after the Point Loma shipwreck, a migrant on an overloaded panga drowned off La Jolla. San Diego Union-Tribune, 24 Oct. 2021 The sportfishing boat remained with the panga until the Coast Guard helicopter arrived. Bryce Miller Columnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 Oct. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'panga.' 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)

probably borrowed from Panamanian Spanish; further origin uncertain

Note: Early citations for panga in English localize the word around the Panama Canal Zone (see, for example, John Edwin Hoag, "Outboard Motoring through the Panama Canal," Motor Boating, vol. 35, no. 1 [January, 1925], p. 284. "With our little fifteen foot panga (Spanish for rowboat) we got about into the middle of Gatun Lake around 2 P.M…"). There appears to be minimal evidence for the word in American Spanish earlier than the middle of the twentieth century. Augusto Malaret enters the word in the supplement (1942) to his Diccionario de Americanismos with the definition "bote, lancha" ("boat, launch") citing a Panamanian informant. In Philippine Spanish the word panga has a much longer documentation. Wenceslao Emilio Retana's Diccionario de Filipinismos (New York/Paris, 1921) defines panga as "embarcación, especie de baroto, bien acabada y ligera, que navega a remo y a la vela" ("boat, a kind of baroto [large dugout canoe], well-finished and light, that is directed by oar and by sail"); his earliest citation for the word, which he claims is of Tagalog origin, is from Juan de la Concepción's Historia general de Philipinas (Manila, 1788). The Oxford English Dictionary, third edition, conflates panga with American Spanish bongo, a widespread word from the Gulf of Mexico to Chile for various small river and coastal craft, though panga and bongo appear to be quite distinct in distribution, and it remains to be proven that they are of common origin. Regarding bongo, first attested in 1748, see further Nicolás del Castillo Mathieu, "El aporte negro-africano al léxico de Colombia," Encuentro Internacional sobre el español de América hacia el siglo XXI, vol. 2 (Bogotá, 1992), pp. 41-99. Castillo Mathieu believes, on rather slim evidence, that bongo is of African origin.

Noun (2)


First Known Use

Noun (1)

1811, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

1925, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of panga was in 1811

Dictionary Entries Near panga

Cite this Entry

“Panga.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Sep. 2023.

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