\ˈsāl, as last element in compounds often səl\

Definition of sail 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a(1) : an extent of fabric (such as canvas) by means of which wind is used to propel a ship through water

(2) : the sails of a ship

b plural usually sail : a ship equipped with sails

2 : an extent of fabric used in propelling a wind-driven vehicle (such as an iceboat)

3 : something that resembles a sail especially : a streamlined conning tower on a submarine

4 : a passage by a sailing craft : cruise

under sail

: in motion with sails set


sailed; sailing; sails

Definition of sail (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to travel on water in a ship

b : yacht

2a : to travel on water by the action of wind upon sails or by other means

b : to move or proceed easily, gracefully, nonchalantly, or without resistance sails through all sorts of contradictions— Vicki Hearne the bill sailed through the legislature

c : to move through the air the ball sailed over his head

3 : to begin a water voyage sail with the tide

transitive verb

1a : to travel on (water) by means of motive power (such as sail) sail the ocean

b : to glide through

2 : to direct or manage the motion of sail a ship

sail into

: to attack vigorously or sharply sailed into me for being late

Illustration of sail

Illustration of sail


sail 1a (of a schooner): 1 flying jib, 2 jib, 3 forestaysail, 4 foresail, 5 fore gaff-topsail, 6 main-topmast staysail, 7 mainsail, 8 main gaff-topsail

In the meaning defined above

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Other Words from sail


sailed \ˈsāld \ adjective


sailable \ˈsā-lə-bəl \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for sail

Synonyms: Noun

crossing, cruise, passage, voyage

Synonyms: Verb

bowl, breeze, brush, coast, cruise, drift, flow, glide, roll, skim, slide, slip, stream, sweep, whisk

Antonyms: Verb

flounder, struggle

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Examples of sail in a Sentence


Wind filled the sails and our journey had begun. raising and lowering the ship's sails a sail to San Francisco


We'll sail along the coast. He sailed around the world on a luxury liner. She sailed the Atlantic coastline. She's sailing a boat in tomorrow's race. The ship was sailed by a crew of 8. I've been sailing since I was a child. a ship that has sailed the seven seas We sat on the shore watching boats sail by. We sail at 9 a.m. tomorrow. They sail for San Francisco next week.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Operated by three-year-old Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, the former Costa Cruises ship sails from Palm Beach to Grand Bahama Island in tandem with the slightly smaller Grand Celebration to provide daily departures. Gene Sloan, USA TODAY, "Cruise ship tours: Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s Grand Classica," 19 June 2018 The mighty hour doth approach, metaphorically speaking, as Holy Ship! enters its 12th sail. Kat Bein, Billboard, "REZZ, Tchami, ZHU & More Announced For Holy Ship 2019: Full Lineup," 13 June 2018 And so begins a grueling 41-day journey adrift on a sailboat with broken sails across more than 1,000 of open ocean., "Adrift Review: A Brutal Tale Of Female Survival," 31 May 2018 The RemoveDEBRIS system has been outfitted with a drag sail that will quicken its demise after the testing. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Harpoon-Based Space Junk Capture System Is Getting Space Tested," 25 June 2018 The rocket will carry four satellites and a test probe equipped with a sail designed to drag defunct satellites out of orbit. Rachel Becker, The Verge, "Watch Rocket Lab’s Electron make its first commercial flight," 22 June 2018 His yellow shirt has thinned to a wet, translucent, sail. Chicago Tribune,, "Algren Award runner-up: "Fluid Mechanics" by Mabel Yu," 2 June 2018 Daniel Rybakken’s Amisol ceiling fixture evokes a billowing sail. Arlene Hirst, New York Times, "What’s Hot (and Cool) in Home Lighting," 8 May 2018 Register for tour 30 minutes before each sail, 9 a.m.-2:15 p.m., every 45 minutes., "Deerfield and Pompano Beach area events, May 9-19," 8 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The throw by the normally defensively superior Hedges sailed into center field, allowing Baez to scramble to third bse. Kevin Acee,, "Things fall apart quickly for Padres in loss to Cubs," 13 July 2018 Some boats sailed straight down Buffalo Bayou to downtown Houston, but Galveston was especially crucial to the blockade-runners. Chris Gray, Houston Chronicle, "Expansive exhibit highlights Houston’s quiet but vital role during Civil War," 11 July 2018 Peralta sailed through the initial three innings, allowing just a walk with four strikeouts before his outing came to an abrupt end in the fourth. Todd Rosiak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Marlins 5, Brewers 4: Offense can't rescue Peralta in extra-inning loss," 11 July 2018 In 2007, a U.S. aircraft carrier sailed through the strait on its way to home port in Japan, a route Washington described then as a safety move due to weather. Ralph Jennings,, "U.S. warships pass near Taiwan in a show of defiance to China," 8 July 2018 The two warships sailed through the straight while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Pyongyang meeting senior North Korean leaders. Lucas Tomlinson, Fox News, "Two US warships sail through Taiwan Strait amid China trade war: officials," 7 July 2018 His left-footed, spin-less shot from the edge of the penalty area sailed through the air so suddenly that Croatia’s goalkeeper barely moved. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "Russia Is Out of the Russian World Cup," 7 July 2018 Davis’ throw hit off Cashner’s glove while the pitcher was in mid-stride and sailed into foul ground, allowing Jake Cave, who hit a leadoff double to open the inning, to score and put Wilson at second. Eduardo A. Encina,, "Cashner's quality start, Schoop's two homers not enough in Orioles' 5-2 loss to Twins," 6 July 2018 Boston starter Chris Sale sailed through six innings while striking out 12, and the Red Sox completed a win that seemed likely from the start. Jesse Newell, kansascity, "Why Hammel's struggles — including in a 10-5 loss — come at a bad time for the Royals," 6 July 2018

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

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First Known Use of sail


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


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

History and Etymology for sail


Middle English, from Old English segl; akin to Old High German segal sail

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Dictionary Entries near sail



Saigon cinnamon



sail arm


Statistics for sail

Last Updated

10 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for sail

The first known use of sail was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for sail



English Language Learners Definition of sail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a large piece of strong cloth that is connected to a ship or boat and that is used to catch the wind that moves the ship or boat through the water

: a trip in a ship or boat



English Language Learners Definition of sail (Entry 2 of 2)

: to travel on water in a ship or boat

: to control a ship or boat (especially one that has sails) while traveling on water

of a ship or boat : to travel on water


\ˈsāl \

Kids Definition of sail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a sheet of strong cloth (as canvas) used to catch enough wind to move boats through the water or over ice

2 : the sails of a ship They lowered sail as they approached the bay.

3 : a trip in a ship or boat moved especially by the wind We went for a sail on the lake.


sailed; sailing

Kids Definition of sail (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to travel on a boat moved especially by the wind He sailed around the world.

2 : to travel on or by water Boats sailed by.

3 : to control the motion of (a ship or boat) while traveling on water

4 : to move or proceed in a quick and smooth way The ball sailed over my head.

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Comments on sail

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


a state of commotion or excitement

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