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[guhn-boht] /ˈgʌnˌboʊt/
a small, armed warship of light draft, used in ports where the water is shallow.
any small ship carrying mounted guns.
Origin of gunboat
First recorded in 1770-80; gun1 + boat Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for gunboats
Historical Examples
  • But now the hearts of the soldiers were cheered with the news that the gunboats were coming.

    Winning His Way

    Charles Carleton Coffin
  • Those your gunboats poke her nose and shove her oar in every place.

    Soldiers Three, Part II. Rudyard Kipling
  • The Cumberland answered, and the Congress, and their gunboats and shore batteries.

    The Long Roll Mary Johnston
  • The head of his column was set for the James, for Harrison's Landing and the gunboats.

    The Long Roll Mary Johnston
  • He saw four gunboats on the river; they were throwing the long, howling shells.

    The Long Roll Mary Johnston
  • The gunboats recommenced with their long and horrible shells.

    The Long Roll Mary Johnston
  • (p. 195) Hardly had the flag touched the deck, when the gunboats were alongside.

  • (p. 208) "Well, commodore, I have brought you out three of the gunboats."

  • Two gunboats were newly planked up, and work on a schooner was just begun.

    The Land We Live In

    Henry Mann
  • How can they defend Zaila against the British gunboats that will be sent here?

    The River of Darkness William Murray Graydon
British Dictionary definitions for gunboats


a small shallow-draft vessel carrying mounted guns and used by coastal patrols, etc
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 gunboats


1793, from gun + boat. Gunboat diplomacy is from 1916, originally with reference to Western policies in China.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for gunboats



  1. A pair of shoes or galoshes, esp of large size: He brought some of the 14EE gunboats with him from the States
  2. A pair of large feet (1886+)
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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