\ 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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Synonyms: Verb

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of sail in a Sentence

Noun Wind filled the sails and our journey had begun. raising and lowering the ship's sails a sail to San Francisco Verb 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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Overhead, woven blue ropes are zig-zagged into sweeping arches, giving the illusion of sails. Jessica Yadegaran, The Mercury News, "First Look: Inside Berkeley Marina’s new boathouse-themed restaurant," 11 Sep. 2019 Team Vineyard Vines is traveling from Connecticut, with a giant pink whale on its spinnaker sail. Laura Johnston,, "J/70 North American sailing championships coming to Cleveland," 11 Sep. 2019 And though Google stopped indexing 8chan back in 2015, taking some wind out of its sails, the site has still managed to become a go-to for hate speech of all sorts and, of late, mass shooters spreading their extremist propaganda. Lily Hay Newman, WIRED, "Cloudflare Ditches 8chan. What Happens Now?," 5 Aug. 2019 LightSail 2's orbit will continue raising for the next month as scientists on the ground focus on optimizing its aluminized Mylar sail. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "LightSail 2, the Solar Sailing CubeSat That Could, Declared a Success," 31 July 2019 Come summer every year, music mogul and billionaire David Geffen goes on a severely FOMO-inducing Instagram spree documenting his sails around the Mediterranean on his yacht, Rising Sun. Leena Kim, Town & Country, "10 Best Places to Drink Aperol Spritzes This Summer," 3 July 2019 Our sails bloat as wind hauls us toward the harbor, and Father readies himself to dock. David Canfield,, "First look: Next year's biggest YA fantasy could be All the Stars and Teeth," 2 July 2019 Luckily, there's a name for the someones or somethings that take the wind out of our sails in a serious way: They're called energy vampires. Lisa Stardust, Teen Vogue, "How to Use Magic to Banish Energy Vampires," 28 May 2019 That's taken some wind out of his sails, but only to a point: Tagovailoa is still a star who grabs attention in a way no college quarterback has since Tim Tebow. 3. Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY, "The 10 best college football quarterbacks for the 2019 season," 12 May 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The Spartans had 12 men on field, negating a game-tying field goal at the end of the game, though officials admitted a penalty should have been called on Arizona State during the second field goal attempt, which sailed wide left. Scooby Axson,, "Week 4 College Football Power Rankings: Clemson Further Proves ACC Dominance," 16 Sep. 2019 Tiburon police Chief Mike Cronin told the Marin Independent Journal that the tragedy unfolded on Sunday, as Burillo, 57, was sailing from San Francisco to the Corinthian Yacht Club in Tiburon with his two sons. Joelle Goldstein,, "Tycoon Arrested After Both His Sons Are Thrown Off His Boat, Tragically Killing His 11-Year-Old," 16 Sep. 2019 Among the attendees at the Kevin Stevens reception: Don Sweeney, Olympic hero Mike Eruzione, and always-sharp former Boston University coach Jack Parker, avidly sailing and playing tennis in retirement. Terriers and Eagles, getting along., "(Debee Tlumacki for The Boston Globe)," 15 Sep. 2019 Third-and-12, CIN 39: A risky throw barely sails over cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick but just short of Richie James, forcing a punt. Cam Inman, The Mercury News, "Garoppolo tracker: How the 49ers QB dominated the Bengals," 15 Sep. 2019 However, Blount managed just one first down and, on fourth-and-six from its 34, a snap sailed high over the punter’s head giving St. Paul’s the ball at the Leopard 16. Ben Thomas |, al, "J Greene passes for 2 TDs, runs for another as St. Paul’s holds off No. 7 Blount," 14 Sep. 2019 Before the ball got there, however, Robey-Coleman clocked Lewis with a hit initiated by the helmet that sent him sailing out of bounds. Los Angeles Times, "Column: How Saints fans rallied after losing to Rams in NFC title game," 14 Sep. 2019 No Quantum-class ship has ever home ported in Florida, although the North American market can sail from New York on board Anthem of the Seas including stops at Port Canaveral. Richard Tribou,, "Royal Caribbean sending new Quantum Ultra ship Odyssey of the Seas to Florida," 13 Sep. 2019 But the comeback stopped there as Nadal fended off one last break point, sealing the epic when a return sailed long. Ravi Ubha, CNN, "Nadal edges Medvedev to win fourth US Open and 19th major, only one behind Federer," 9 Sep. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about sail

Statistics for sail

Last Updated

24 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for sail

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for sail


How to pronounce sail (audio)

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.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on sail

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sail

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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

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).


to engage in dissolute behavior

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Pass the Little Ribbons: A Pasta Word Quiz

  • rotelle pasta
  • Match the pasta to its meaning in English: Rotelle
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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