from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A small anchor with three or more flukes, especially one used for anchoring a small vessel.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A mechanical device consisting essentially of one or more hooks or clamps, used for grasping or holding something; a grapple; a grappling-iron.
  • noun Specifically A grappling-iron, used to seize and hold one ship to another in engagements preparatory to boarding. Also called grappling.
  • noun A boat's anchor having from three to six flukes placed at equal distances about the end of the shank. Also grapline.
  • noun A kind of heavy tongs used for hauling logs, stones, etc.
  • noun 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 the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Naut.) 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 Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

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

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


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

[Middle English grapenel, probably ultimately from Old French grapin, hook, diminutive of grape; see grape.]



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  • "'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

  • 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