Try Our Apps


Avoid these words. Seriously.


[tuhn-l] /ˈtʌn l/
an underground passage.
a passageway, as for trains or automobiles, through or under an obstruction, as a city, mountain, river, harbor, or the like.
an approximately horizontal gallery or corridor in a mine.
the burrow of an animal.
Dialect. a funnel.
verb (used with object), tunneled, tunneling or (especially British) tunnelled, tunnelling.
to construct a passageway through or under:
to tunnel a mountain.
to make or excavate (a tunnel or underground passage):
to tunnel a passage under a river.
to move or proceed by or as if by boring a tunnel:
The river tunneled its way through the mountain.
to pierce or hollow out, as with tunnels.
verb (used without object), tunneled, tunneling or (especially British) tunnelled, tunnelling.
to make a tunnel or tunnels:
to tunnel through the Alps.
Origin of tunnel
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English tonel (noun) < Middle French tonele, tonnelle funnel-shaped net, feminine of tonnel cask, diminutive of tonne tun; see -elle
Related forms
tunneler; especially British, tunneller, noun
tunnellike, adjective
subtunnel, noun
untunneled, adjective
untunnelled, adjective

tunnel effect

Physics. a quantum-mechanical process by which a particle can pass through a potential energy barrier that is higher than the energy of the particle: first postulated to explain the escape of alpha particles from atomic nuclei.
Also called tunneling.
First recorded in 1930-35 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for tunneling
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Then the French spent the next ten days in tunneling to Steenstraate.

  • Then, armed with their shovels, they began the work of tunneling to the station.

    The White Desert

    Courtney Ryley Cooper
  • “Brick and Jerry are tunneling this way,” said Hamp, to himself.

    The Camp in the Snow William Murray Graydon
  • They occasionally did so, but the risk did not keep anyone from tunneling.

  • tunneling has been carried on quite extensively in the mining region.

  • After the decision is finally made the tunneling is a rapid process.

    Wasps George W. Peckham
  • Here the stream which has done all this carving and tunneling has got to the end of its tether.

    Riverby John Burroughs
  • The light which had served Ashe and McNeil in their tunneling clicked on.

    The Time Traders Andre Norton
  • Many lives were sacrificed in the hazardous work of tunneling.

    Life in a Thousand Worlds

    William Shuler Harris
British Dictionary definitions for tunneling


an underground passageway, esp one for trains or cars that passes under a mountain, river, or a congested urban area
any passage or channel through or under something
a dialect word for funnel
(obsolete) the flue of a chimney
verb -nels, -nelling, -nelled (US) -nels, -neling, -neled
(transitive) to make or force (a way) through or under (something): to tunnel a hole in the wall, to tunnel the cliff
(intransitive; foll by through, under, etc) to make or force a way (through or under something): he tunnelled through the bracken
Derived Forms
tunneller, (US) tunneler, noun
Word Origin
C15: from Old French tonel cask, from tonne tun, from Medieval Latin tonna barrel, of Celtic origin

tunnel effect

(physics) the phenomenon in which an object, usually an elementary particle, tunnels through a potential barrier even though it does not have sufficient energy to surmount the barrier. It is explained by wave mechanics and is the cause of alpha decay, field emission, and certain conduction processes in semiconductors
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
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for tunneling



mid-15c., "funnel-shaped net for catching birds," from Middle French tonnelle "net," or tonel "cask," diminutive of Old French tonne "tun, cask for liquids," possibly from the same source as Old English tunne (see tun).

Sense of "tube, pipe" (1540s) developed in English and led to sense of "underground passage," which is first attested 1765, about five years after the first modern tunnel was built (on the Grand Trunk Canal in England). This sense subsequently has been borrowed into French (1878). The earlier native word for this was mine. Meaning "burrow of an animal" is from 1873. Tunnel vision first recorded 1949. The figurative phrase light at the end of the tunnel is attested from 1922.



"excavate underground," 1795, from tunnel (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
tunneling in Medicine

tunnel tun·nel (tŭn'əl)
A passage located through or under a barrier.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Cite This Source
tunneling in Science
See quantum tunneling.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source
Slang definitions & phrases for tunneling



To go into hiding (1950s+ Underworld)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
Cite This Source
Idioms and Phrases with tunneling
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Nearby words for tunneling

Difficulty index for tunnel

Most English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for tunneling

Scrabble Words With Friends