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[awl] /ɔl/
a pointed instrument for piercing small holes in leather, wood, etc.
Origin of awl
before 900; Middle English al, eal, aul, Old English al, eal, æl; cognate with Old Norse alr; akin to Middle English ēl, Old English ǣl, Old High German āla (German Ahle), Sanskrit ā́rā
Can be confused
ale, ail, awl.
all, awl (see usage note at all)


or a.w.l

absent with leave. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for awl
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • We cut with a knife, we pierce with an awl, we weave with a shuttle, we name with a name.

    Cratylus Plato
  • The shuttle will be made by the carpenter; the awl by the smith or skilled person.

    Cratylus Plato
  • And "hahaha" echoed the old man, still sitting with the awl in his hand.

    The Great Hunger Johan Bojer
  • Then he took an awl, heated it red-hot, and applied it to her eye—her sound one.

    Russian Fairy Tales W. R. S. Ralston
  • Baba Mustapha was seated with an awl in his hand, just going to work.

British Dictionary definitions for awl


a pointed hand tool with a fluted blade used for piercing wood, leather, etc See also bradawl
Word Origin
Old English ǣl; related to Old Norse alr, Old High German āla, Dutch aal, Sanskrit ārā
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for awl

Old English æl "awl, piercer," from Proto-Germanic *ælo (cf. Old Norse alr, Dutch aal, Middle Low German al, Old High German äla, German Ahle), of uncertain origin. Earliest references are to piercing of the ears, though later it was associated with shoemakers. Through misdivision, frequently written 15c.-17c. as nawl (for an awl; see N).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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