from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. One of several small ropes attached to the leech of a sail for drawing the sail in or up.
  • n. A small net for drawing fish from a trap or a larger net into a boat.
  • transitive v. To gather in (a sail) with brails.
  • transitive v. To haul in (fish) with a brail.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. a small rope used to truss up sails
  • v. To reef, shorten or strike sail using brails.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A thong of soft leather to bind up a hawk's wing.
  • n. Ropes passing through pulleys, and used to haul in or up the leeches, bottoms, or corners of sails, preparatory to furling.
  • n. A stock at each end of a seine to keep it stretched.
  • transitive v. To haul up by the brails; -- used with up.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To fasten up (the wings of a bird).
  • Nautical, to haul in by means of the brails: usually followed by up.
  • n. Naut., one of certain ropes made fast to the after-leech of a fore-and-aft sail, and led through blocks on the mast or gaff down to the deck, to assist in taking in the sail; a rope made fast to the head of a jib for a similar purpose.
  • n. In falconry: A piece of leather used to bind up a hawk's wing.
  • n. [⟨ F. brayeul, “the parts or feathers about the Hauks fundament, called by our falconers the brayl in a shortwinged and the pannel in a long-winged hauk” (Cotgrave).] The mass of feathers about a hawk's fundament; the crissum of a falcon.
  • n. A section of a log-raft, six of which make an average tow.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. take in a sail with a brail
  • n. a small net used to draw fish into a boat
  • n. a small rope (one of several) used to draw a sail in
  • v. haul fish aboard with brails


Middle English braile, from Old French brail, belt, from Medieval Latin brācale, from Latin brācae, breeches; see bracket.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Old French braiel, from Medieval Latin bracale ‘girdle’ (from bracae ‘breeches’). (Wiktionary)


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  • “Couple of you come aft here and brail up the spanker!”
    The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 2, No. 14, December 1858

    November 26, 2011