1. either of the rounded areas that form the transition between the bottom and the sides on the exterior of a hull.
  2. Also bilges.(in a hull with a double bottom) an enclosed area between frames at each side of the floors, where seepage collects.
  3. Also called bilge well.a well into which seepage drains to be pumped away.
  4. Also called bilge water.seepage accumulated in bilges.
the widest circumference or belly of a cask.

verb (used without object), bilged, bilg·ing.

  1. to leak in the bilge.
  2. (of white paint) to turn yellow.
to bulge or swell out.

verb (used with object), bilged, bilg·ing.

Nautical. to damage (a hull bottom) so as to create an entry for seawater.

Origin of bilge

First recorded in 1505–15; perhaps variant of bulge Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for bilges

malarky, balderdash, trash, rot, bull

Examples from the Web for bilges

Historical Examples of bilges

  • But at times they were objectionable, especially when the gin was awash in the bilges.

    The Flying Bo'sun

    Arthur Mason

  • If he could pump from the bilges this coming up would be unnecessary.

  • Meantime, red and white lead paint was being applied in the bilges of the vessel.

  • She looked bluff and heavy in the bows and her bilges turned hard, but she walked over the water, and don't you forget it.

    Plain Mary Smith

    Henry Wallace Phillips

  • I looked at the gauge-glasses on the boilers, peered into the bilges, and found the fireman at his post in the stokehold.


    William McFee

British Dictionary definitions for bilges



nautical the parts of a vessel's hull where the vertical sides curve inwards to form the bottom
(often plural) the parts of a vessel between the lowermost floorboards and the bottom
Also called: bilge water the dirty water that collects in a vessel's bilge
informal silly rubbish; nonsense
the widest part of the belly of a barrel or cask


(intr) nautical (of a vessel) to take in water at the bilge
(tr) nautical to damage (a vessel) in the bilge, causing it to leak
Derived Formsbilgy, adjective

Word Origin for bilge

C16: probably a variant of bulge
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

Word Origin and History for bilges



1510s, "lowest internal part of a ship," also used of the foulness which collects there; variant of bulge "ship's hull," also "leather bag," from Old North French boulge "leather sack," from Late Latin bulga "leather sack," apparently from Gaulish bulga (see budget (n.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper