Definitions

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

  • n. The rear seating compartment of an early type of automobile.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The rear body or compartment of some types of motor vehicle, especially one containing seats for passengers.
  • n. An old-style open passenger vehicle with a tonneau (rear compartment with seats).
  • n. Short for tonneau cover.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. In France, a light-wheeled vehicle with square or rounded body and rear entrance.
  • n. Orig., the after part of the body with entrance at the rear (as in vehicle in def. 1); now, one with sides closing in the seat or seats and entered by a door usually at the side, also, the entire body of an automobile having such an after part.
  • n. same as Tonne.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A tub.
  • n. A name given by French builders of motorcars to the rounded or cask-like rear body of the vehicle.
  • n. See ├¬tonne.

Etymologies

French, from Old French tonnel, cask; see tunnel.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French tonneau. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • There will be one set of batteries there, together with the motor, and another set of batteries will be placed under the removable seats in what I call the tonneau, though, of course, it isn't really that.

    Tom Swift and His Electric Runabout, or, the Speediest Car on the Road

  • There was only Helen on the front seat of the car; but in the tonneau was a bundled-up figure surmounted by what looked to be a scarlet cap which Ruth knew instantly must be Tom's.

    Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill Or, Jasper Parloe's Secret

  • In the tonneau was a matronly woman and three girls including "L'Enfant Terrible," all,

    Cap'n Abe, Storekeeper

  • Behind in the tonneau were her maid of honor, a young Syrian woman with a baby in her arms and four other black-eyed children about her.

    Tish

  • In town a defective sparkplug brings the close attention of a crowd which exchanges opinions as to whether the lady in the tonneau is your wife.

    The Patient Observer And His Friends

  • In the front of the tonneau was a large packing-case.

    Lady Bountiful

  • The "tonneau" is open at the upper edge and is closed by a conical roof (Fig. 18).

    5 Cassava

  • The "tonneau" can be compared to a large barrel and is erected on a low platform.

    5 Cassava

  • The "tonneau" consists of a wooden frame in which mats are stretched.

    5 Cassava

  • We have recently borrowed several words from the French, such as tonneau and limousine, words used to describe parts of an automobile, besides the name automobile itself, which is made up of a Latin and a Greek word.

    Introductory American History

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