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[bou-sprit, boh-] /ˈbaʊ sprɪt, ˈboʊ-/
noun, Nautical.
a spar projecting from the upper end of the bow of a sailing vessel, for holding the tacks of various jibs or stays and often supporting a jib boom.
Origin of bowsprit
1300-50; Middle English bouspret < Middle Low German bōchspret (cognate with Dutch boegsprit) (bōch bow3 + spret pole, cognate with Old English sprēot) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for bowsprit
Historical Examples
  • The Growler had lost her bowsprit, and was otherwise damaged, and had been forced to strike also.

    Ned Myers James Fenimore Cooper
  • And springing up, he ran to the bowsprit and began to swarm along it.

    Fair Margaret H. Rider Haggard
  • She lost her bowsprit and foremast, but escaped further injury.

  • The pier is all but on the bowsprit, and you think you are there—roll, roar, wash!

    The Uncommercial Traveller Charles Dickens
  • Cain stood at the bowsprit, giving his directions to the helmsman.

  • In larger boats the jib-boom is an extension of the bowsprit.

    Boys' Book of Model Boats Raymond Francis Yates
  • The swordfish are always harpooned from the end of the bowsprit of a sailing-vessel.

    Tales of Fishes Zane Grey
  • Then, with lightning's speed, I ran along the deck, and out on the bowsprit.

  • She was boarded from her bowsprit by the first lieutenant and a party of seamen.

    The Settlers in Canada

    Frederick Marryat
  • The watch on deck had taken turns at the lookout on the bowsprit.

    Little By Little William Taylor Adams
British Dictionary definitions for bowsprit


(nautical) a spar projecting from the bow of a vessel, esp a sailing vessel, used to carry the headstay as far forward as possible
Word Origin
C13: from Middle Low German bōchsprēt, from bōchbow³ + sprēt pole
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 bowsprit

"spar extending from the bow of a ship," late 13c., probably from Middle Low German bochspret, from boch "bow of a ship" (see bow (n.2)) + spret "pole" (cf. Old English spreot "pole," Dutch spriet "spear;" see sprit). French beaupre is a Dutch loan word.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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