- a cylindrical wooden container with slightly bulging sides made of staves hooped together, and with flat, parallel ends.
- the quantity that such a vessel of some standard size can hold: for most liquids, 31½ U.S. gallons (119 L); for petroleum, 42 U.S. gallons (159 L); for dry materials, 105 U.S. dry quarts (115 L). Abbreviation: bbl
- any large quantity: a barrel of fun.
- any container, case, or part similar to a wooden barrel in form.
- Ordnance. the tube of a gun.
- Machinery. the chamber of a pump in which the piston works.
- a drum turning on a shaft, as in a weight-driven clock.
- Horology. the cylindrical case in a watch or clock within which the mainspring is coiled.
- Ornithology Obsolete. a calamus or quill.
- the trunk of a quadruped, especially of a horse, cow, etc.
- Nautical. the main portion of a capstan, about which the rope winds, between the drumhead at the top and the pawl rim at the bottom.
- a rotating horizontal cylinder in which manufactured objects are coated or polished by tumbling in a suitable substance.
- any structure having the form of a barrel vault.
- Also called throat. Automotive. a passageway in a carburetor that has the shape of a Venturi tube.
- to put or pack in a barrel or barrels.
- to finish (metal parts) by tumbling in a barrel.
- Informal. to force to go or proceed at high speed: He barreled his car through the dense traffic.
- Informal. to travel or drive very fast: to barrel along the highway.
- over a barrel, Informal. in a helpless, weak, or awkward position; unable to act: They really had us over a barrel when they foreclosed the mortgage.
Origin of barrel
- a cylindrical container usually bulging outwards in the middle and held together by metal hoops; cask
- Also called: barrelful the amount that a barrel can hold
- a unit of capacity used in brewing, equal to 36 Imperial gallons
- a unit of capacity used in the oil and other industries, normally equal to 42 US gallons or 35 Imperial gallons
- a thing or part shaped like a barrel, esp a tubular part of a machine
- the tube through which the projectile of a firearm is discharged
- horology the cylindrical drum in a watch or clock that is rotated by the mainspring
- the trunk of a four-legged animalthe barrel of a horse
- the quill of a feather
- informal a large measure; a great deal (esp in the phrases barrel of fun, barrel of laughs)
- Australian informal the hollow inner side of a wave
- over a barrel informal powerless
- scrape the barrel informal to be forced to use one's last and weakest resource
- (tr) to put into a barrel or barrels
- (intr ; foll by along, in, etc) informal (intr) to travel or move very fast
- Australian informal to ride on the inside of a wave
Word Origin and History for over a barrel
mid-15c., "to put in barrels," from barrel (n.). Meaning "to move quickly" is 1930, American English slang, perhaps suggestive of a rolling barrel. Related: Barreled; barreling.
c.1300, from Old French baril (12c.) "barrel, cask, vat," with cognates in all Romance languages (e.g. Italian barile, Spanish barril), but origin uncertain; perhaps from Gaulish, perhaps somehow related to bar (n.1). Meaning "metal tube of a gun" is from 1640s. Barrel roll in aeronautics is from 1927.
Idioms and Phrases with over a barrel
over a barrel
In a weak or difficult position, as in Once the competitors found a flaw in our product, they had us over a barrel. This slangy expression, first recorded in 1938, supposedly alludes to reviving a drowning victim by placing the body head down over a barrel and rolling it back and forth, so as to empty the lungs of water. The expression survives, although happily the practice does not.