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tun·​nel ˈtə-nᵊl How to pronounce tunnel (audio)
: a covered passageway
specifically : a horizontal passageway through or under an obstruction
: a subterranean gallery (as in a mine)
: burrow
: a hollow conduit or recess : tube, well
tunnellike adjective


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tunneled or tunnelled; tunneling or tunnelling ˈtən-liŋ How to pronounce tunnel (audio)

intransitive verb

: to make or use a tunnel
physics : to pass through a potential barrier
electrons tunneling through an insulator between semiconductors

transitive verb

: to make a tunnel or similar opening through or under
also : to make (one's way) by or as if by making a tunnel
ˈtən-lər How to pronounce tunnel (audio)

Examples of tunnel in a Sentence

Noun The train goes through a tunnel in the mountain. The moles dug tunnels in the yard. Verb Workers are tunneling through the hill. Insects had tunneled into the tree.
Recent Examples on the Web
On Aug, 31, 1997, Princess Diana and her companion, Dodi Fayed, died after their car crashed in a Paris tunnel, apparently while being chased by photographers. Elvia Limón, Los Angeles Times, 31 Aug. 2023 Related:Richardson man sentenced for role in Jan. 6 Capitol riot, social media threats Anderson then joined a mob of other rioters who physically confronted police officers in a Capitol tunnel, authorities said, where some of the day’s worst violence occurred. Michael Williams, Dallas News, 30 Aug. 2023 Renters are granted access to the batting tunnel, as well as helmets, balls and bats for those who want to practice their swing. Sarah Kuta, Smithsonian Magazine, 30 Aug. 2023 Flooding was recorded all over Detroit streets and in the tunnels leading to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, AP reported. Amaris Encinas, USA TODAY, 26 Aug. 2023 Overnight rain had turned parts of Detroit Metro Airport into an island, flooding the tunnels that lead to and from the McNamara Terminal, which Delta uses as a hub. Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press, 25 Aug. 2023 The tunnels, built by Italian soldiers in WWII, are fully restored and go on for more than half a mile along the mountain’s edge. Stacey Leasca, Travel + Leisure, 23 Aug. 2023 The show's prize money—which jumped up to $750,000 in Season 23—make for a worthy light at the end of the tunnel. Evan Romano, Men's Health, 17 Aug. 2023 Philippines defender Sofia Harrison stood in the tunnel of Wellington Stadium before taking on host New Zealand in the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Jacob Steinberg, Baltimore Sun, 15 Aug. 2023
Because electricity can exist in a vacuum, the sound can actually jump—or tunnel—from one crystal to another. Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, 23 Aug. 2023 Dutch trains are being disrupted by tunneling badgers, and windy outdoor conditions were worsening bacterial contamination on chicken farms in the American West. Matthew Gavin Frank, Harper's Magazine, 3 May 2023 Another thing that can shorten the life of your candle is tunneling. Madison Yauger, Peoplemag, 17 May 2023 The 14 court-level options include four courtside cabanas positioned directly behind the baseline seats where Ballmer sits (opposite The Wall) and include privacy glass lining the player tunnel on the backside. Tim Newcomb, Forbes, 8 Mar. 2023 Creator Graham Yost’s embrace of genre in Justified freed him and his writers to tunnel into world-building, to paint an elaborately and vividly detailed portrait of a place: Harlan County, Kentucky, was a community exploited and ravaged by coal companies, by drug dealers, by neglect. Phillip MacIak, The New Republic, 28 July 2023 Designers had initially hoped to tunnel beneath the rail line, but UP refused permission, the resultant bridge adding well over $15 million to the project cost, according to Ellerman. Mark Lamster, Dallas News, 29 June 2023 Two inmates allegedly used tools to tunnel their way out of a jail in Newport News, Virginia. Christopher Brito, CBS News, 22 Mar. 2023 More than a century ago, in the summer of 1916, a pocket of natural gas exploded on a crew working deep beneath Lake Erie to tunnel in fresh water from beyond Cleveland’s polluted shore. Ethan Karp, Forbes, 23 Feb. 2023 See More

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

Word History



Middle English tonel cask, tun, from Anglo-French, from tone tun

First Known Use


1508, in the meaning defined at sense 2


1795, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of tunnel was in 1508

Dictionary Entries Near tunnel

Cite this Entry

“Tunnel.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tunnel. Accessed 24 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
tun·​nel ˈtən-ᵊl How to pronounce tunnel (audio)
: a passage under the ground
tunnellike adjective


2 of 2 verb
tunneled or tunnelled; tunneling or tunnelling
: to make a tunnel

Medical Definition


tun·​nel ˈtən-ᵊl How to pronounce tunnel (audio)
: a bodily channel see carpal tunnel
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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