Definitions

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

  • n. Nautical A piece of fabric sewn together and fitted to the spars and rigging of a vessel so as to convert the force of the wind into forward motion of the vessel.
  • n. Nautical The sails of a ship or boat.
  • n. Nautical The superstructure of a submarine.
  • n. Nautical A sailing vessel.
  • n. Nautical A trip or voyage in a sailing craft.
  • n. Something, such as the blade of a windmill, that resembles a sail in form or function.
  • intransitive v. Nautical To move across the surface of water, especially by means of a sailing vessel.
  • intransitive v. Nautical To travel by water in a vessel.
  • intransitive v. Nautical To start out on such a voyage or journey.
  • intransitive v. Nautical To operate a sailing craft, especially for sport.
  • intransitive v. To move along or progress smoothly or effortlessly: sailed into the room five minutes late; sailed through the exam; sailed through the red light.
  • transitive v. Nautical To navigate or manage (a vessel).
  • transitive v. Nautical To voyage upon or across: sail the Pacific.
  • sail into To attack or criticize vigorously: sailed into the workmen for the shoddy job they were doing.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A piece of fabric attached to a boat and arranged such that it causes the wind to drive the boat along. The sail may be attached to the boat via a combination of mast, spars and ropes.
  • n. The power harnessed by a sail or sails, or the use this power for travel or transport.
  • n. A trip in a boat, especially a sailboat.
  • n. The blade of a windmill.
  • n. A tower-like structure found on the dorsal (topside) surface of submarines.
  • n. The floating organ of siphonophores, such as the Portuguese man-of-war.
  • n. A sailfish.
  • v. To ride in a boat, especially a sailboat.
  • v. To move briskly and gracefully through the air.
  • v. To move briskly.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An extent of canvas or other fabric by means of which the wind is made serviceable as a power for propelling vessels through the water.
  • n. Anything resembling a sail, or regarded as a sail.
  • n. A wing; a van.
  • n. The extended surface of the arm of a windmill.
  • n. A sailing vessel; a vessel of any kind; a craft.
  • n. A passage by a sailing vessel; a journey or excursion upon the water.
  • intransitive v. To be impelled or driven forward by the action of wind upon sails, as a ship on water; to be impelled on a body of water by the action of steam or other power.
  • intransitive v. To move through or on the water; to swim, as a fish or a water fowl.
  • intransitive v. To be conveyed in a vessel on water; to pass by water.
  • intransitive v. To set sail; to begin a voyage.
  • intransitive v. To move smoothly through the air; to glide through the air without apparent exertion, as a bird.
  • transitive v. To pass or move upon, as in a ship, by means of sails; hence, to move or journey upon (the water) by means of steam or other force.
  • transitive v. To fly through; to glide or move smoothly through.
  • transitive v. To direct or manage the motion of, as a vessel.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A piece of cloth, or a texture or tissue of some kind, spread to the wind to cause, or assist in causing, a vessel to move through the water.
  • n. That part of the arm of a windmill which catches the wind.
  • n. One of the canvas flaps of a cart or wagon.
  • n. Figuratively, a wing.
  • n. A single ship or vessel, especially a ship considered as one of a number: the same form in the singular and the plural: as. at noon we sighted a sail and gave chase; a fleet of twenty sail.
  • n. A fleet.
  • n. Sailing qualities; speed.
  • n. A journey or excursion upon water; a passage in a vessel or boat.
  • n. A ride in a cart or other conveyance.
  • n. In zoology, a structure or formation of parts suggesting a sail in shape or use.
  • n. To spread more sail; hasten on by spreading more sail.
  • n. To abate show or pomp.
  • To move along through or over the water by the action of the wind upon sails; by extension, to move along through or over the water by means of sails, oars, steam, or other mechanical agency.
  • To set sail; hoist sail and depart; begin a journey on shipboard: as, to sail at noon.
  • To journey by water; travel by ship.
  • To swim, as a fish or a swan.
  • To fly without visible movement of the wings, as a bird; float through the air; pass smoothly along; glide: as, the clouds sail across the sky.
  • Hence, figuratively To move forward impressively, as if in the manner of a ship with all sail set.
  • To plunge forward, like a ship; rush forward: sometimes with in.
  • To move or act with great caution; be in circumstances requiring careful action.
  • To live closely up to one's income; be straitened for money.
  • To move or pass over or upon by the action of the wind upon sails, or, by extension, by the propelling power of oars, steam, etc.
  • To direct or manage the motion, movements, and course of; navigate: as, to sail a ship.
  • To dance.
  • To assail.
  • In lawn-tennis, to rise after crossing the net: said of a ball.

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

  • n. a large piece of fabric (usually canvas fabric) by means of which wind is used to propel a sailing vessel
  • v. travel on water propelled by wind
  • n. any structure that resembles a sail
  • v. move with sweeping, effortless, gliding motions
  • n. an ocean trip taken for pleasure
  • v. travel on water propelled by wind or by other means
  • v. traverse or travel on (a body of water)

Etymologies

Middle English seil, from Old English segl. Sail into, from obsolete sail, to attack, from Middle English sailen, short for assailen; see assail.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old English seġel, from Proto-Germanic *seglan (compare earlier Middle Low German segel and later Low German sail), cognate with Dutch zeil, German Segel, Danish sejl), from pre-Germanic/Celtic sek-lo (compare Welsh hwyl, Irish séol), from Proto-Indo-European *sek- 'to cut'. More at saw. (Wiktionary)
Old English seġlian, cognate to earlier Middle Low German segelen and its descendant Low German sailen. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • "Then," said Mr. Hall, "I should think, on the whole, that, in such a place as this, where there are so many regular sail boats, and where excursions on the lake in them are so common and so well recognized as a distinct amusement, the phrase _taking a sail_ ought to be held to mean going in a sail boat, and that making a voyage in a steamer would not be fulfilling the promise."

    Rollo in Geneva

  • "Then the sky narrowed at the edges and he began screaming at a panicky squire, "Back sail, _back sail_!"

    Mission to Moulokin

  • Aboard ship, Dana discovers that to sail is to tread the line between life and death.

    Richard Henry Dana

  • Steering the sail is akin to steering a paraglider or parachute — the “autopilot” pod flying just under the kite shortens one side to dump wind and turn.

    Wind-Powered Rotor Ships Were Maritime Breakthrough of the 20s « Isegoria

  • I think that he had never been entirely reconciled to the heathenish invention which I called a sail, and that down in the bottom of his heart he believed that the paddlers would eventually overhaul us; but now he couldn't praise it enough.

    Pellucidar

  • I'd like to know how large the sail is when it's unfurled.

    Solar sails to take flight - Boing Boing

  • What would stop Israel from setting up an investigation into complicty of the Turkish government in a premeditated armed attack on IDF commandoes by armed mercenaries and militants linked to known terrorist groups, who set sail from a Turkish port with the goal of breaking an Israeli blockade, and chanting “Khyber, khyber, beware O Jews”, and “Go back to Auschwitz” and various slogans glorifying jihad and martyrdom?

    The Volokh Conspiracy » What’s Going on With Turkey

  • Andrés de Urdaneta sets sail from the Philippine Islands on what eventually becomes recognized as a landmark voyage in sailing history.

    Mexico this month - June

  • It is no slight matter for two men, particularly when a stiff wind has sprung up, to handle a vessel like the Ghost, steering, keeping look-out for the boats, and setting or taking in sail; so it devolved upon me to learn, and learn quickly.

    Chapter 17

  • I've done some sailing myself, and this naming a craft when its sail is only a blur, or naming a man by the sound of his anchor — it's — it's unadulterated poppycock.

    A GOBOTO NIGHT

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