Definitions

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

  • transitive verb Nautical To discipline by dragging under the keel of a ship.
  • transitive verb To rebuke harshly.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To haul under the keel of a ship.
  • Figuratively, to reprimand severely; haul over the coals. Also keelrake.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • intransitive verb (Naut.) To haul under the keel of a ship, by ropes attached to the yardarms on each side. It was formerly practiced as a punishment in the Dutch and English navies.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb transitive (nautical) To punish by dragging under the keel of a ship.
  • verb transitive To rebuke harshly.

Etymologies

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

[Alteration (influenced by keel and haul) of Dutch kielhalen : kiel, keel of a ship (from Middle Dutch) + halen, to haul (from Middle Dutch); see kelə- in Indo-European roots.]

Examples

  • They had to make it down the peninsula before sunset, or her landing party would be keelhaul dropping in the dark.

    Behemoth

  • She had only a few hours to learn how to use a diving apparatus, how to keelhaul drop onto solid stone, and how to handle acid-spitting barnacles!

    Behemoth

  • She nodded, wishing that it was something piffling like a keelhaul drop that had her jittery.

    Behemoth

  • A keelhaul drop meant sliding down a cable to the ground.

    Behemoth

  • For the head of Starfleet to have come all the way from Earth, this was not likely to be a typical reprimand—perhaps he planned to personally keelhaul him.

    Star Trek: TNG: Losing the Peace

  • For the head of Starfleet to have come all the way from Earth, this was not likely to be a typical reprimand—perhaps he planned to personally keelhaul him.

    Star Trek: TNG: Losing the Peace

  • Yet these are nits to pick in the overall stunning accomplishment that Abrams has pulled off in his desire not so much to keelhaul the Enterprise as to give it a brand-spanking-new coat of studio paint, polished off with the love that a sailor has for his favorite boat.

    Buzzine » Live Anew and Prosper

  • Just as Bligh was willing and eager to flog, keelhaul and starve any human being who stood in the way of his career, so our bourgeoisie will flog, keelhaul and starve the national interest "" with every slum-dweller, rickshawpuller and day-labourer as victim "" in the promotion of their own self-interest.

    Cap'n Blimey

  • The idea was to take inner-city kids with “issues,” put them to sea in an old tea clipper, and make them splice the main brace and keelhaul and that sort of thing until they discovered self-worth and gave up shoplifting.

    The Little Lady Agency and the Prince

  • The idea was to take inner-city kids with “issues,” put them to sea in an old tea clipper, and make them splice the main brace and keelhaul and that sort of thing until they discovered self-worth and gave up shoplifting.

    The Little Lady Agency and the Prince

Comments

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  • Originally a severe form of corporal punishment for sailors at sea. The offending sailor was tied to a rope that looped beneath the vessel, thrown overboard on one side of the ship, and dragged under the ship's keel to the other side. If the rope snapped, the Captain might conclude that the punishment was not meted out properly and might order it repeated.

    The earliest official mention of keelhauling is a Dutch ordinance of 1560; the practice was formally abolished in 1853. While not an official punishment in Britain, it was reportedly used by some British Royal Navy and merchant marine captains, and has become strongly associated with pirate lore.

    January 9, 2008

  • Ouch. Those prickly barnacles!

    January 9, 2008

  • Who thought up these things? That's what I'd like to know.

    Wait...maybe I wouldn't.

    January 9, 2008

  • "No patients, other than a youth from the Erebus whom our young friend Hanson struck to the ground with a murderous blow. ... his shipmates feign infinite concern and swear that if it prove fatal they will keelhaul the Lion of Atlas, as they call our champion, with his own intestines."

    --Patrick O'Brian, Blue at the Mizzen, 127

    I intend to use this threat at work very soon. "Leave my cubicle upon the instant, sir, or I shall keelhaul you with your own intestines." Er... as soon as I find a keel.

    March 27, 2008