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[boo l-werk, -wawrk, buhl-] /ˈbʊl wərk, -wɔrk, ˈbʌl-/
a wall of earth or other material built for defense; rampart.
any protection against external danger, injury, or annoyance:
The new dam was a bulwark against future floods.
any person or thing giving strong support or encouragement in time of need, danger, or doubt:
Religion was his bulwark.
Usually, bulwarks. Nautical. a solid wall enclosing the perimeter of a weather or main deck for the protection of persons or objects on deck.
verb (used with object)
to fortify or protect with a bulwark; secure by or as if by a fortification.
Origin of bulwark
late Middle English
1375-1425; late Middle English bulwerk, probably < Middle Dutch bolwerc, equivalent to bol(l)e bole1 + werk work (noun); cf. boulevard
3. support, buttress, mainstay. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for bulwarks
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Each boat was armed with two torpedoes, fastened to the end of long spars projected over the bulwarks and working on pivots.

    Man on the Ocean R.M. Ballantyne
  • I saw a body lifted from the deck and carried over the bulwarks.

    The Two Whalers W.H.G. Kingston
  • He stood leaning over the bulwarks just forward of the bridge.

    The Island Mystery George A. Birmingham
  • I could just lift up my head and see her sail over the bulwarks.

  • Over the bulwarks he leaped; I and most of the men from the two boats followed.

    Marmaduke Merry William H. G. Kingston
  • Had I struck the deck or bulwarks I should have been killed.

    My First Cruise W.H.G. Kingston
  • At length, to his astonishment, the walls and roofs of houses began to appear above the bulwarks.

  • The ladies especially were looking wistfully over the bulwarks.

  • In about two hours he began to fly about a little; and finally he perched upon the bulwarks, and looked all over the sea.

    Rollo on the Atlantic Jacob Abbott
British Dictionary definitions for bulwarks


a wall or similar structure used as a fortification; rampart
a person or thing acting as a defence against injury, annoyance, etc
(often pl) (nautical) a solid vertical fencelike structure along the outward sides of a deck
a breakwater or mole
(transitive) to defend or fortify with or as if with a bulwark
Word Origin
C15: via Dutch from Middle High German bolwerk, from bol plank, bole1 + werkwork
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 bulwarks



early 15c., from Middle Dutch bulwerke or Middle High German bolwerc, probably from bole "plank, tree trunk" (from Proto-Germanic *bul-, from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell;" see bole) + werc "work" (see work (n.)). Figurative sense is from 1570s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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bulwarks in the Bible

mural towers, bastions, were introduced by king Uzziah (2 Chr. 26:15; Zeph. 1:16; Ps. 48:13; Isa. 26:1). There are five Hebrew words so rendered in the Authorized Version, but the same word is also variously rendered.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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