\ 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

One of the main places that the show filmed was Croatia, and now, a limited-time luxury cruise run by Cruise Croatia will set sail on August 8, 2020 and take visitors to all the main GoT locations in the country. Glamour, "A Game of Thrones Cruise Is Setting Sail in 2020," 28 May 2019 On Friday, the pair set sail on a superyacht called the Utopia III, and were photographed engaging in some very, very rare PDA (even rarer than a sighting of Holmes and Foxx together in public? Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Katie Holmes and Jamie Foxx Water-Frolic on Jet Skis During Romantic Miami Vacation," 31 Dec. 2018 Luiz Souza/NurPhoto via Getty Images This year a projected 27.2 million passengers are expected to set sail on cruises. Aditi Shrikant, Vox, "The case against cruises," 15 Nov. 2018 Edward managed to persuade his powerful ally to head back to Britain when the ship set sail from New York 12 days later. Anna Pasternak, Town & Country, "How Wallis Simpson Reacted When King Edward VIII Revealed His Plans to Abdicate," 5 Mar. 2019 Their genius is being able to identify a ship’s weakest rivets before setting sail, and formulating a plan that protects them from unsustainable pressure. Sam Walker, WSJ, "The Truth About Failing Spectacularly," 16 Feb. 2019 The women took the sails down, got on the bikes and pedaled in. Alexa Philippou, The Seattle Times, "Sail like a girl: How an all-female team made history and won the 750-mile Race to Alaska," 14 July 2018 Ripped sails, enormous waves, exploding masts, and sailors gone overboard are among the reasons the Volvo Ocean Race has been called the Everest of the sea. Dan Egan,, "On the way to Newport, the Volvo Ocean Race has been filled with drama," 18 May 2018 According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Portuguese Man o' War - a species known as a siphonophore and named for its resemblance to an 18th-century Portuguese warship at full sail - often float in large groups. Leada Gore,, "Portuguese Man o' War in Orange Beach, Gulf Shores prompts purple flag," 27 Feb. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Although the tax-and-spend stimulus that Congress passed at the end of 2017 and the start of 2018 stoked a period of strong hiring and accelerating G.D.P. growth, the U.S. economy is now sailing into some rocky waters. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, "Trump’s Top Economist Makes a Timely Exit," 4 June 2019 This could mean the Game of Thrones world is round, and only has two continents—and Elissa sailed west right into Asshai. Carrie Wittmer, Harper's BAZAAR, "Game of Thrones: What's Really West of Westeros," 24 May 2019 The Arab Spring crashed into Egypt like a tsunami that somehow sent everyone sailing up into the air before depositing them back in the same place, badly bruised and frightened. James Traub, WSJ, "‘Into the Hands of the Soldiers’ Review: Arab Spring, Egypt’s Fall," 14 Aug. 2018 The whole point of the game-changing cancer immunotherapies is to get armadas of T cells sailing into battle against tumors. Sharon Begley, STAT, "For cancer immunotherapies, a radioactive crystal ball might foretell success or failure," 14 May 2018 And 2018 was also a tragic year: In March, five crew members of the megaship Maersk Honam, owned by freight giant A.P. Moller-Maersk, died in a fire while the vessel sailed in the Arabian Sea. ... Jon Sindreu, WSJ, "Shipping’s Latest Problem: Rising Insurance Costs," 28 Mar. 2019 In the Season 7 finale, Daenerys is sailing north to Winterfell with Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister on her ship. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "The First Details on the Game of Thrones Season 8 Plot Were Just Revealed," 2 Nov. 2018 When Muir last sailed through in 1899, this spot held a salmon cannery and a few shacks. Anchorage Daily News, "A DIY trip through Alaska’s Inside Passage," 26 May 2018 They are slated to begin sailing in 2021, 2022 and 2023. Richard Tribou,, "Disney Cruise Line to sail from Florida, California, New York and Texas in fall 2019," 17 May 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

6 Jun 2019

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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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