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[taf-reyl, -ruh l] /ˈtæfˌreɪl, -rəl/
noun, Nautical.
the upper part of the stern of a ship.
a rail above the stern of a ship.
Origin of taffrail
1805-15; syncopated variant of taffarel; -ai- spelling Dutch -ee- Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for taffrail
Historical Examples
  • With the idea of gaining time she walked rapidly aft to the taffrail.

    The Rescue Joseph Conrad
  • We have a ladder with hooks at the top for catching on the taffrail.

    The Pit Prop Syndicate Freeman Wills Crofts
  • The corsair was standing by the side of Mr Tompkins, close by the taffrail.

    Picked up at Sea J.C. Hutcheson
  • There he lay like a log, as dumb as the man whom he had left clinging to the taffrail.

    Labrador Days Wilfred Thomason Grenfell
  • Then he stepped to the taffrail and looked down at the gig, which had been passed astern.

    Turned Adrift Harry Collingwood
  • A small neat moulding at the foot of the taffrail over the light.

    The Sailor's Word-Book William Henry Smyth
  • Come, let us lean on the taffrail, and look at the dolphins.

    The Bertrams

    Anthony Trollope
  • Captain Snaggs at once jumped up on the taffrail on our hailing her.

    The Island Treasure John Conroy Hutcheson
  • It required two men, however, to draw him on board over the taffrail.

    Peter Trawl W. H. G. Kingston
  • The two midshipmen were standing aft, looking over the taffrail.

British Dictionary definitions for taffrail


noun (nautical)
a rail at the stern or above the transom of a vessel
the upper part of the transom of a vessel, esp a sailing vessel, often ornately decorated
Word Origin
C19: changed (through influence of rail1) from earlier tafferel, from Dutch taffereel panel (hence applied to the part of a vessel decorated with carved panels), variant of tafeleel (unattested), from tafeltable
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 taffrail

1814, alteration of tafferel "upper panel on the stern of a ship (often ornamented)" (1704), earlier, "a carved panel" (1620s), from Dutch tafereel "panel for painting or carving," dissimulation from *tafeleel, diminutive of tafel "table," from the general West Germanic borrowing of Latin tabula "slab, board" (see table (n.)). The word developed in Dutch from the custom of ornamenting the high, flat stern of old sailing ships; spelling and sense altered in English by influence of rail (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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