Nautical Informal.

Nearby words

  1. bulk carrier,
  2. bulk mail,
  3. bulk modulus,
  4. bulk up,
  5. bulk-mail,
  6. bulkhead,
  7. bulkhead deck,
  8. bulkheading,
  9. bulking,
  10. bulky

Origin of bulker

First recorded in 1875–80; bulk1 + -er1




magnitude in three dimensions: a ship of great bulk.
the greater part; main mass or body: The bulk of the debt was paid.
goods or cargo not in packages or boxes, usually transported in large volume, as grain, coal, or petroleum.
(of paper, cardboard, yarn, etc.) thickness, especially in relation to weight.
the body of a living creature.


being or traded in bulk: bulk grain.

verb (used without object)

to increase in size; expand; swell.
to be of or give the appearance of great weight, size, or importance: The problem bulks large in his mind.
(of paper, cardboard, yarn, etc.) to be of or to acquire a specific thickness, especially in relation to weight.
to gather, form, or mix into a cohesive or uniform mass.

verb (used with object)

to cause to swell, grow, or increase in weight or thickness.
to gather, bring together, or mix.

Verb Phrases

bulk up, to increase the bulk of, especially by increasing the thickness of: Adding four chapters will bulk up the book.

Origin of bulk

1400–50; late Middle English bolke heap, cargo, hold < Old Norse bulki cargo, ship's hold

Synonym study

1. See size1.

Pronunciation note

Bulk and bulge most often are pronounced with the vowel [uh] /ʌ/ of buck. In South Midland and Southern U.S. the [oo] /ʊ/ of book and bull commonly occurs among all speakers. Standard British speech has only [uh] /ʌ/. Both types exist in British regional speech, and both were brought to the colonies, where each came to predominate in a different area and was carried west by migration.

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for bulker



volume, size, or magnitude, esp when great
the main partthe bulk of the work is repetitious
a large body, esp of a personhe eased his bulk out of the chair
the part of food which passes unabsorbed through the digestive systemhe eased his bulk out of the chair
unpackaged cargo or goods
a ship's cargo or hold
  1. the thickness of a number of sheets of paper or cardboard
  2. the thickness of a book excluding its covers
(plural) copies of newspapers sold in bulk at a discounted price to hotels, airlines, etc which issue them free to their customers
in bulk
  1. in large quantities
  2. (of a cargo, etc) unpackaged


to cohere or cause to cohere in a mass
to place, hold, or transport (several cargoes of goods) in bulk
bulk large to be or seem important or prominentthe problem bulked large in his mind

Word Origin for bulk

C15: from Old Norse bulki cargo


The use of a plural noun after bulk was formerly considered incorrect, but is now acceptable

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 bulker
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with bulker


see in bulk.

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