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

  • n. A square sail set above the lowest sail on the mast of a square-rigged ship.
  • n. A triangular or square sail set above the gaff of a lower sail on a fore-and-aft-rigged ship.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A sail or either of the two sails rigged just above the course sail and supported by the topmast on a square-rigged sailing ship.
  • n. In a fore-and-aft -rigged sailing boat, the sail that is set above the gaff at the top part of the mast.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. In a square-rigged vessel, the sail next above the lowermost sail on a mast. This sail is the one most frequently reefed or furled in working the ship. In a fore-and-aft rigged vessel, the sail set upon and above the gaff. See cutter, schooner, sail, and ship.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Same as topsails over (which see, under topsail, n.).
  • n. Nautical, a square sail next above the lowest or chief sail of a mast. It is carried on a topsail-yard.

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

  • n. a sail (or either of a pair of sails) immediately above the lowermost sail of a mast and supported by a topmast


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • Her main topsail blew out suddenly and went streaming forth in the gale, a jib split to ribbons before their eyes, and spar after spar was carried away.

    The Windy Hill

  • We took in topsail and staysail, dropped the main peak, and as we got abreast of the principal wharf jibed the mainsail.

    Charley's Coup

  • We took in topsail and staysail, dropped the main-peak, and as we got abreast of the principal wharf jibed the mainsail.

    Charley's "Coup"

  • Her topsail was the only canvas she had set, and she was so low in the water that I could not see her deck amidships at that distance.

    Mr. Trunnell, Mate of the Ship "Pirate"

  • By saving money, by earning more, and by each of us foregoing a bicycle on his birthday, we had collected the purchase price of the Mist, a beamy twenty-eight-footer, sloop-rigged, with baby topsail and centerboard.

    To Repel Boarders

  • You know what it is to lay out on a topsail yard in the thick of it, bucking sleet and snow and frozen canvas till you're ready to just let go and cry like a baby.


  • Thus a few minutes of the voyage were lost by backing the Elsinore's main-topsail and deadening her way while the service was read and O'Sullivan was slid overboard with the inevitable sack of coal at his feet.


  • And on one side, and one side only, the wall had fallen away till it was like the slope of the decks in a topsail breeze.

    An Odyssey of the North

  • The lower-topsail, its sheets parted by the fall of the crojack-yard, was tearing out of the bolt-ropes and ribboning away to leeward and making such an uproar that they might well expect its yard to carry away.


  • Immediately the lifts and lower-topsail sheets parted, and with a fore-and-aft pitch of the ship the spar up-ended and crashed to the deck upon Number Three hatch, destroying that section of the bridge in its fall.


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