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noun (1)

till·​er ˈti-lər How to pronounce tiller (audio)
: one that tills : cultivator


2 of 4

noun (2)

til·​ler ˈti-lər How to pronounce tiller (audio)
: a lever used to turn the rudder of a boat from side to side
broadly : a device or system that plays a part in steering something


3 of 4

noun (3)

til·​ler ˈti-lər How to pronounce tiller (audio)
: stalk, sprout
especially : one from the base of a plant or from the axils of its lower leaves


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til·​ler ˈti-lər How to pronounce tiller (audio)
tillered; tillering ˈti-lə-riŋ How to pronounce tiller (audio)

intransitive verb

of a plant
: to put forth tillers

Examples of tiller in a Sentence

Noun (1) in his paintings farmers are invariably depicted as brawny yet noble tillers of the land
Recent Examples on the Web
In the stark Antarctic Peninsula, younger passengers will get to handle a zodiac tiller (weather permitting) in the shadow of colossal icebergs and gob-smacking glaciers in search of penguins, seals, and whales. Kerry Spencer, Condé Nast Traveler, 26 Dec. 2023 In the meantime, he’s been tinkering with two generators and a tiller that were also damaged in the storm. Blake Nelson, San Diego Union-Tribune, 13 Feb. 2024 And yet, even in its modern incarnation, the city still has tillers – from street vendors to artisans to bakers. Ken Makin, The Christian Science Monitor, 5 Feb. 2024 The usually-trustworthy boat’s autopilot feature had broken down, forcing the 29-year-old skipper to steer the shaky tiller with her legs and man the lines of two sails with each arm while careening through one of the most treacherous stretches of the Indian Ocean. Kc Baker, Peoplemag, 2 Feb. 2024 Weed seeds, some of which can remain dormant in the soil for several years, come to the surface under the blades of a tiller, then germinate and become a problem. oregonlive, 7 Sep. 2023 O’Donoghue steers us toward reckonings large and small, her hand steady on the tiller. Hamilton Cain, New York Times, 27 June 2023 Every time a tiller cuts through soil the structure is weakened, which can cause compaction and increase runoff. oregonlive, 7 Sep. 2023 So my job was to keep the tiller heading towards the true north of redemption and revenge. Brian Davids, The Hollywood Reporter, 31 Aug. 2023
Continue tillering until the bow can be drawn far enough to shoot an arrow half as long as the bow (with most woods, this will be a 35- to 55-pound pull). Keith McCafferty, Field & Stream, 29 June 2023 Large crabgrass can spread rapidly by tillering or from sprouts at the base of the plant, which rapidly increases the width of the crabgrass clump. Tim Johnson, Chicago Tribune, 30 July 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'tiller.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Noun (2)

Middle English teler, tiller stock of a crossbow, tiller, from Anglo-French teiler stock of a crossbow

Noun (3)

Middle English *tiller, from Old English telgor, telgra twig, shoot; akin to Old High German zelga twig, Old Irish dlongaid he splits

First Known Use

Noun (1)

13th century, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

circa 1625, in the meaning defined above

Noun (3)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above


1677, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of tiller was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near tiller

Cite this Entry

“Tiller.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tiller. Accessed 16 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
: a person who tills
also : cultivator


2 of 2 noun
: a lever used to turn the rudder of a boat from side to side

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