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.
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.

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 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for brailing

Historical Examples of brailing

  • The act of brailing up and furling sails at sea; generally used in opposition to setting.

    The Sailor's Word-Book

    William Henry Smyth

British Dictionary definitions for brailing


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

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 brailing



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).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper