Definitions

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

  • n. Nautical A small anchor with three or more flukes, especially one used for anchoring a small vessel. Also called grapple, grappling.
  • n. See grapple.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A small anchor, having more than two flukes, used for anchoring a small vessel.
  • n. A grappling iron.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A small anchor, with four or five flukes or claws, used to hold boats or small vessels; hence, any instrument designed to grapple or hold; a grappling iron; a grab; -- written also grapline, and crapnel.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A mechanical device consisting essentially of one or more hooks or clamps, used for grasping or holding something; a grapple; a grappling-iron.
  • n. Specifically A grappling-iron, used to seize and hold one ship to another in engagements preparatory to boarding. Also called grappling.
  • n. A boat's anchor having from three to six flukes placed at equal distances about the end of the shank. Also grapline.
  • n. A kind of heavy tongs used for hauling logs, stones, etc.
  • n. A device for grasping or taking hold of something not otherwise manageable or accessible, as for gripping and recovering tools in a bored well, for raising the core left by a diamond drill, for seizing a submarine telegraph-cable which needs repairs, etc.

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

  • n. a tool consisting of several hooks for grasping and holding; often thrown with a rope
  • n. a light anchor for small boats

Etymologies

Middle English grapenel, probably ultimately from Old French grapin, hook, diminutive of grape; see grape.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • The grapnel is a small anchor, made like four pot-hooks tied back to back.

    Heroes of the Telegraph

  • But here, in Arkham City, the grapnel is a star, embracing the sprawling chunk of quarantined Gotham that Batman now prowls, catapulting you across its scrum of industrial brick, filth and rampant criminality.

    Telegraph.co.uk - Telegraph online, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph

  • And don't forget - we'd have to send up some kind of grapnel as well, if we want the end to stay up there. '

    Of Time and Stars

  • "Oh! we call a small kind of grapnel, or four-armed anchor, a creeper," said Will.

    Menhardoc

  • It's the first large anchor that divers have retrieved; they earlier brought up a small, grapnel anchor.

    Blackbeard's anchor recovered off N.C. coast

  • There were no handholds on the rock face, and we had to use a grapnel.

    Tin

  • Rhegians, sailing up to them, and seeing that the crews were not there, fell upon the empty vessels, but an iron grapnel was thrown out at them, and they in their turn lost a ship, from which the crew escaped by swimming.

    The History of the Peloponnesian War

  • From it depended the trail rope and grapnel, and over the sides of the car were a number of canvas bags that Bert decided must be ballast to “chuck down” if the balloon fell.

    The War in the Air

  • He leapt up on the seat, and, at imminent risk of falling headlong, released the grapnel-rope from the toggle that held it, sprang on to the trail rope and disengaged that also.

    The War in the Air

  • Everybody was either trying to dodge the grapnel or catch the trail rope.

    The War in the Air

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Comments

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  • With anxious grapnels I had sounded my pocket, and only brought up a few pieces of silver...

    - Melville, Moby-Dick, ch. 2

    July 23, 2008

  • "'Halley? Comet Halley, the Astronomer Royal?'

    "'Just so.'

    "...I have an amazing respect for him, of course. Such an observer! Such a calculator! But I had no idea he was concerned with diving-bells.'

    "'Yet I told you of his paper, Art of Living under Water... and you commended my desire to walk upon the bottom of the sea. You said it would be a better way of finding lost anchors and cables than creeping for them with a grapnel.'"
    --Patrick O'Brian, Treason's Harbour, 67

    February 15, 2008