[ bar-uhl ]
See synonyms for: barrelbarreledbarrelingbarrelled on

  1. a cylindrical wooden container with slightly bulging sides made of staves hooped together, and with flat, parallel ends.

  2. 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

  1. any large quantity: a barrel of fun.

  2. any container, case, or part similar to a wooden barrel in form.

  3. Ordnance. the tube of a gun.

  4. Machinery. the chamber of a pump in which the piston works.

  5. a drum turning on a shaft, as in a weight-driven clock.

  6. Horology. the cylindrical case in a watch or clock within which the mainspring is coiled.

  7. Ornithology Obsolete. a calamus or quill.

  8. the trunk of a quadruped, especially of a horse, cow, etc.

  9. 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.

  10. a rotating horizontal cylinder in which manufactured objects are coated or polished by tumbling in a suitable substance.

  11. any structure having the form of a barrel vault.

  12. Also called throat. Automotive. a passageway in a carburetor that has the shape of a Venturi tube.

verb (used with object),bar·reled, bar·rel·ing or (especially British) bar·relled, bar·rel·ling.
  1. to put or pack in a barrel or barrels.

  2. to finish (metal parts) by tumbling in a barrel.

  1. Informal. to force to go or proceed at high speed: He barreled his car through the dense traffic.

verb (used without object),bar·reled, bar·rel·ing or (especially British) bar·relled, bar·rel·ling.
  1. Informal. to travel or drive very fast: to barrel along the highway.

Idioms about barrel

  1. 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

1250–1300; Middle English barell<Anglo-French baril,Old French barril<Vulgar Latin *barrīculum, equivalent to *barrīc(a), perhaps derivative of Late Latin barrabar1 + Latin -ulum-ule; compare Medieval Latin (circa 800) barriclus small cask

Other words from barrel

  • half-barrel, noun
  • un·bar·reled, adjective
  • un·bar·relled, adjective

Words Nearby barrel Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use barrel in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for barrel


/ (ˈbærəl) /

  1. a cylindrical container usually bulging outwards in the middle and held together by metal hoops; cask

  2. Also called: barrelful the amount that a barrel can hold

  1. a unit of capacity used in brewing, equal to 36 Imperial gallons

  2. a unit of capacity used in the oil and other industries, normally equal to 42 US gallons or 35 Imperial gallons

  3. a thing or part shaped like a barrel, esp a tubular part of a machine

  4. the tube through which the projectile of a firearm is discharged

  5. horology the cylindrical drum in a watch or clock that is rotated by the mainspring

  6. the trunk of a four-legged animal: the barrel of a horse

  7. the quill of a feather

  8. informal a large measure; a great deal (esp in the phrases barrel of fun, barrel of laughs)

  9. Australian informal the hollow inner side of a wave

  10. over a barrel informal powerless

  11. scrape the barrel informal to be forced to use one's last and weakest resource

verb-rels, -relling or -relled or US -rels, -reling or -reled
  1. (tr) to put into a barrel or barrels

  2. (intr ; foll by along, in, etc) informal (intr) to travel or move very fast

  1. Australian informal to ride on the inside of a wave

Origin of barrel

C14: from Old French baril perhaps from barre bar 1

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with barrel


see both barrels; bottom of the barrel; cash on the barrelhead; like shooting fish in a barrel; lock, stock, and barrel; more fun than a barrel of monkeys; over a barrel; pork barrel; rotten apple (spoils the barrel).

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.