Definitions

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

  • n. A temporary, quickly constructed fortification, usually breast-high. See Synonyms at bulwark.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. a fortification consisting of a breast-high bulwark; a parapet
  • n. A railing on the quarter-deck and forecastle.
  • n. a parapet

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A defensive work of moderate height, hastily thrown up, of earth or other material.
  • n. A railing on the quarter-deck and forecastle.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In fortification, a hastily constructed work thrown up breast-high for defense.
  • n. Nautical, a sort of balus-trade of rails or moldings which terminates the quarter-deck and poop at the fore ends, and also incloses the forecastle both before and behind.
  • n. The parapet of a building.

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

  • n. fortification consisting of a low wall

Etymologies

breast +‎ work (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Hidden behind the breastwork was a body of troops from Beauséjour.

    The Raid from Beausejour; and How the Carter Boys Lifted the Mortgage

  • These stones are much larger than our own, are angular, and of a size that works very well into a wall; and the materials being plenty, a breastwork, that is proof against everything but artillery, is soon formed by a crowd.

    A Residence in France

  • So we immediately tied our horses to bushes near and put up our saddles as a kind of breastwork but before they reached us, they turned off into some timber on a stream, built a kind of fort of logs, bushes, their saddles and blankets, as a shade if we attacked them, and took their horses into the fort with them.

    Autobiography of John Ball - Across the Plains to Oregon, 1832

  • So, since the smuggled casks formed a kind of breastwork right round the steps -- up from the passage that was blocked by the stone door -- it came into my head that I could there set up a kind of battery and run from one to the other of them, firing -- that is, if the worst came to the worst and the passage were forced.

    The Dew of Their Youth

  • On this was erected a kind of breastwork of trunks of trees, each tree some fifteen feet in length, and in the centre of the circular breastwork was an altar, as usual, under which blazed a fire of great fierceness.

    In the Wrong Paradise

  • Bungarolo was the least adept player, and Damper and Rigar managed to keep him before them as a kind of breastwork or shield, behind which they could escape the threatening stick.

    First in the Field A Story of New South Wales

  • Colonel Ewell, who happened to be there, arranged the Rifles, and I think a few dismounted cavalry, on either side of the street, behind the fence, so as to make it a kind of breastwork, whence they returned the enemy's fire most effectively.

    Diary of a Southern Refugee During the War

  • Isabel, and so arranged as to form a kind of breastwork, to shield the boys from the bullets of the enemy.

    Watch and Wait or The Young Fugitives

  • This officer, immediately on discovering the rout of the troops, dispatched on the strongest horses the most necessary part of the baggage, and disposing the remainder on an advantageous part of the road, as a kind of breastwork, he posted his men behind it, and endeavored not only to rally the fugitives as they came up, but by a well-directed fire to check the violence of the pursuers.

    Historical collections of Virginia

  • We began, immediately, a kind of breastwork, made by chopping off logs, and putting them together.

    Pattie's Personal Narrative, 1824--1830

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