• synonyms


  1. Nautical. any of several horizontal lines fastened to the edge of a fore-and-aft sail or lateen sail, for gathering in the sail.
  2. a leather binding for a hawk's wings, to prohibit flight.
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verb (used with object)
  1. Nautical.
    1. to gather or haul in (a sail) by means of brails (usually followed by up).
    2. to transfer (fish) from a net to the hold of a ship.
  2. to bind (the wings of a bird) in order to prevent it from flying.
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Origin of brail

1400–50; late Middle English, variant of brayell < Anglo-French braiel; Old French < Medieval Latin brācāle breechbelt, noun use of neuter of brācālis, equivalent to Latin brāc(ae) trousers (< Gaulish) + -ālis -al1
Related formsun·brailed, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for brail

Historical Examples of brail

  • I exclaimed; “and stand by to brail up the mizzen if she fails to pay off.”

    Under the Meteor Flag

    Harry Collingwood

  • Man the braces fore and aft; square away the yards and brail in the mizen.

    The Congo Rovers

    Harry Collingwood

  • He had taken his mother to Brail once, and she had been much pleased with the village.

    Lover or Friend

    Rosa Nouchette Carey

  • Well, has not Mr Brail told you you might stay if you choose?

  • Come now, Brail, no quizzing, if you please; I am deuced weak yet.

British Dictionary definitions for brail


  1. one of several lines fastened to the leech of a fore-and-aft sail to aid in furling it
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  1. (tr sometimes foll by up) to furl (a fore-and-aft sail) using brails
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Word Origin for brail

C15: from Old French braiel, from Medieval Latin brācāle belt for breeches, from Latin brāca breeches
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 brail


small rope used on ships, mid-15c., from Old French brail, earlier braiel "belt, leather thong," from Latin bracale "waistbelt," from bracæ "breeches" (plural, see breeches).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper