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90s Slang You Should Know


[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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for awl
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The glass eyes are to be cut from their wires and set, drawing the lids around them with an awl.

  • With an awl that he took from his belt Brock pierced Loki's lips.

    The Children of Odin Padraic Colum
  • "I want you to teach me everything you know," said Dickie, picking up an awl and feeling its point.

    Harding's luck E. [Edith] Nesbit
  • We cut with a knife, we pierce with an awl, we weave with a shuttle, we name with a name.

    Cratylus Plato
  • The leather string for thread and the awl for the needle must have been in use long, long ago.

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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