rud·​der ˈrə-dər How to pronounce rudder (audio)
: an underwater blade that is positioned at the stern of a boat or ship and controlled by its helm and that when turned causes the vessel's head to turn in the same direction
: a movable auxiliary airfoil on an airplane usually attached at the rear end that serves to control direction of flight in the horizontal plane see airplane illustration
: a guiding force or strategy
rudderless adjective

Examples of rudder in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In addition, the yacht is equipped with twin rudders and a telescopic lifting keel with a 27-ton bulb that can reduce the draught from 20 feet to 13. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 8 Jan. 2024 Three orcas, the large black-and-white dolphins also known as killer whales, worked in tandem; a large orca rammed the boat from the side while two smaller ones gnawed at the rudder until it was destroyed and the yacht was taking on water. Rachel Riederer, The New Yorker, 28 Dec. 2023 Whatever the reason, orcas off the coasts of Portugal and Spain have been ramming into and breaking rudders off ships in the Strait of Gibraltar. Carlyn Kranking, Smithsonian Magazine, 20 Dec. 2023 In addition, the yacht will be equipped with twin rudders, a lifting keel, and a conventional propulsion system that drives a folding propeller. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 5 Jan. 2024 Such attacks often snap the rudder, leaving the boat unable to navigate. Stephanie Pappas, Scientific American, 24 May 2023 One of the most recent incidents was a 45-minute encounter off the coast of Morocco on October 31, where orcas slammed into the boat’s rudder, causing a leak. Naomi Greenberg, Smithsonian Magazine, 29 Dec. 2023 According to Boeing, there have been no in-flight incidents caused by this condition to date — noting that crews’ routine checks would signal if the rudder was not working properly before an aircraft pushes back from the gate. Wyatte Grantham-Philips, Fortune, 29 Dec. 2023 Working throttle and rudder, the captain maneuvers away from the dock. Thomas Curwen, Los Angeles Times, 3 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'rudder.' 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 rother, from Old English rōther paddle; akin to Old English rōwan to row

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of rudder was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near rudder

Cite this Entry

“Rudder.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


rud·​der ˈrəd-ər How to pronounce rudder (audio)
: a flat movable piece (as of wood or metal) attached to the rear of a ship or aircraft for steering

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