noun (1)
pan·​ga | \ ˈpäŋ-gə How to pronounce panga (audio) \
plural pangas

Definition of panga

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: 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


noun (2)
pan·​ga | \ ˈpäŋ-gə How to pronounce panga (audio) \

Definition of panga (Entry 2 of 2)

Examples of panga in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The panga was spotted around 3:30 a.m. at the south end of Seacoast Drive and a group of people got off and ran. Karen Kucher, San Diego Union-Tribune, "21 arrested by Border Patrol after boat comes ashore in Imperial Beach," 28 Oct. 2020 Blue lights, sirens and a spotlight were turned on in the government boat, but the panga failed to stop, Ruiz said. Teri Figueroa, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Miles off Carlsbad coast, authorities stop boat believed to be smuggling people into U.S.," 21 Aug. 2020 But the panga instead ran into the vessel and, according to a news release from Customs and Border Protection, also ran into a second boat that had joined the chase. Teri Figueroa, San Diego Union-Tribune, "In three busts, federal agents seize 530 pounds meth, 940 pounds marijuana," 11 Aug. 2020 Agents fired warning shots, then shot out the engine, stopping the panga about 12 miles off the Oceanside coastline. Teri Figueroa, San Diego Union-Tribune, "In three busts, federal agents seize 530 pounds meth, 940 pounds marijuana," 11 Aug. 2020 The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, Ventura County Fire Department, U.S. Border Patrol and California State Park Lifeguards responded to help with the recovery and removal of the panga and contraband. Brittny Mejia, Los Angeles Times, "Coast Guard discovers abandoned panga boat with 41 bales of marijuana onboard in Malibu," 14 Sep. 2019 Then get out on the water, on the lookout for whale species such as blue, sperm, and fin; and cruise the coast in a traditional panga boat. National Geographic, "Baja and the Sea of Cortez Expedition: Marine Conservation," 15 Sep. 2019 The loads are often transported to Central America as a waypoint to then be smuggled in panga boats, go-fast vessels or homemade submarines to the western coast of Mexico. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Pence praises Coast Guard drug seizure efforts and criticizes immigration system during San Diego visit," 12 July 2019 The panga has been seized and the five people detained Wednesday morning were taken in for processing by federal authorities. Dana Littlefield,, "5 people detained after panga discovered at Torrey Pines State Beach," 27 June 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of panga

Noun (1)

1811, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

1925, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for panga

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)


Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about panga

Time Traveler for panga

Time Traveler

The first known use of panga was in 1811

See more words from the same year

Statistics for panga

Cite this Entry

“Panga.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Jan. 2021.

Comments on panga

What made you want to look up panga? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Slippery Words Quiz—Changing with the Times

  • ducreux self portrait yawning
  • What is an earlier meaning of nice?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!