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[koo-lee] /ˈku li/
Chiefly Western U.S. and Western Canada. a deep ravine or gulch, usually dry, that has been formed by running water.
a small valley.
a low-lying area.
a small intermittent stream.
Geology. a stream of lava.
Origin of coulee
1800-10, Americanism; < Canadian French, French: a flowing, noun use of feminine of coulé, past participle of couler to flow < Latin cōlāre to filter, strain, derivative of cōlum strainer, sieve; cf. colander, portcullis Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for coulee
Historical Examples
  • It was the only course to pursue with anyone from Denson coulee.

    Chip, of the Flying U B. M. Bower
  • From the rim of the coulee, the man gazed about him, searching for a familiar landmark.

    Prairie Flowers

    James B. Hendryx
  • Near the mouth of the coulee he crawled through a wire fence.

    Prairie Flowers

    James B. Hendryx
  • We lost one in the river, an' the other pulled us ashore, an' then beat it up the coulee.

    Prairie Flowers

    James B. Hendryx
  • No spear of grass was visible and the rock floor of the coulee was baked and dry.

    Prairie Flowers

    James B. Hendryx
  • Only one horse had gone up the coulee—and he had that horse.

    Prairie Flowers

    James B. Hendryx
  • Couldn't see you from down in the coulee when I fired at that bird.

    Land of the Burnt Thigh

    Edith Eudora Kohl
  • There's no trail, an' it's up one coulee an' down another till you get there.

    The Gold Girl James B. Hendryx
  • All seven of them fell close around the mouth of the coulee.

    Rising Wolf the White Blackfoot James Willard Schultz
  • It seemed a long time since the fugitives had gone down into the coulee.

    South from Hudson Bay E. C. [Ethel Claire] Brill
British Dictionary definitions for coulee


/ˈkuːleɪ; -lɪ/
  1. a flow of molten lava
  2. such lava when solidified
(Western US & Canadian) a dry stream valley, especially a long steep-sided gorge or ravine that once carried melt water from a glacier
a small intermittent stream in such a ravine
Word Origin
C19: from Canadian French coulée a flow, from French, from couler to flow, from Latin cōlāre to sift, purify; see colander
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 coulee

"deep ravine, seasonally flooded," 1804, a North American word, originally in areas explored by French trappers, from French coulée "flow" (17c.), from fem. past participle of couler "to flow," from Latin colare "to filter, strain" (see colander).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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