\ ˈsāl How to pronounce sail (audio) , 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 How to pronounce sailed (audio) \ adjective


sailable \ ˈsā-​lə-​bəl How to pronounce sailable (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for sail

Synonyms: Noun

crossing, cruise, passage, voyage

Synonyms: Verb

boat, cruise, ferry, navigate, ship (out), voyage

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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

The Days of Summer Cruise, which is a four-day, three-night hip-hop cruise, set sail on June 28 from Miami, Florida, and will visit Half Moon Cay and Nassau in the Bahamas. Janine Rubenstein,, "See Cardi Perform for the First Time Since Court Appearance on Bahamian Days of Summer Cruise," 30 June 2019 The Elite Fleet sets sail on July 7 for the 38th annual Marblehead-to-Halifax Ocean Race. Annika Hom,, "Haitian dancing, a yacht race, and ‘Red, white and zoo!’," 26 June 2019 The sail is substantially reduced and blended into the hull, which should reduce hydrodynamic drag. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Taking a Closer Look at Japan's Futuristic Attack Submarine," 25 June 2019 On their way to a spying mission, the Americans had set sail from Kuwait to Bahrain. Megan Rose, ProPublica, "Trump Keeps Talking About the Last Military Standoff With Iran — Here’s What Really Happened," 24 June 2019 But arguably the star of the show is the Planetary Society’s LightSail 2, which will navigate its orbit using pressure from light particles hitting the sail. Daniel Oberhaus, WIRED, "SpaceX Is Launching a Solar Sail the Size of a Boxing Ring," 24 June 2019 Set sail from Náxos on a day-long sailing excursion, and anchor at secluded beaches and inlets. National Geographic, "Greek Islands Adventure," 12 June 2019 The boat and another vessel, which was intercepted by Israeli forces on Sunday, set sail to Gaza from Europe last week. Fox News, "The Latest: Israel fires into Gaza after Palestinian attack," 3 Aug. 2018 If a ship sails outside U.S. jurisdiction for an extended period of time, it will be inspected again upon its return. Lillian Reed,, "How many passengers got sick on cruises leaving Baltimore? The CDC has an answer for that and more.," 13 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Former Stanford University sailing coach John Vandemoer received two years or supervision and one day of prison deemed already served. Joey Garrison, USA TODAY, "Mastermind's accountant, ex-USC women's soccer coach plead guilty in college admissions scandal," 27 June 2019 Ten more years would pass before the Planetary Society achieved their first solar-sailing success. Amy Thompson, Smithsonian, "LightSail 2 Launches to Space to Soar on the Power of Sunshine," 25 June 2019 In spring of 2018, Quincey Cummings and Mitchell Andrus flew from the Bay Area to Panama to buy their new home: a 30-year-old, 46-foot sailing yacht named the Esprit. Sarah Feldberg,, "Can Airbnb transform adventure travel?," 20 June 2019 Four months ago, John Vandemoer was coaching the Stanford University women’s sailing team at a regatta in South Carolina, silently trying to make sense of a recent visit by an FBI agent. Milton J. Valencia,, "‘At some point, I got lost,’ says former Stanford sailing coach sentenced in college bribery scandal," 12 June 2019 Singer then directed $500,000 to Vandemoer’s sailing program. Matthew Ormseth,, "In first admissions scandal sentencing, ex-Stanford sailing coach is spared prison," 12 June 2019 In exchange, the consultant directed hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to the school’s sailing program. New York Times, "Stanford Coach Avoids Prison in Admissions Scandal. Have Colleges Avoided Blame?," 12 June 2019 On the wires that supported the mast, North would test sail materials. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Innovator North always pushed the envelope, but ‘wasn’t afraid to fail’," 5 June 2019 Following an engagement in London to launch sailing regatta The King's Cup on May 7, Kate Middleton and Prince William traveled to North Wales on May 8, 2019. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Kate Middleton and Prince William Step Out in Wales," 8 May 2019

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

4 Jul 2019

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 How to pronounce sail (audio) \

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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More from Merriam-Webster on sail

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with sail

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sail

Spanish Central: Translation of sail

Nglish: Translation of sail for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sail for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about sail

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