[bool-werk, -wawrk, buhl-]


a wall of earth or other material built for defense; rampart.
any protection against external danger, injury, or annoyance: The new dam was a bulwark against future floods.
any person or thing giving strong support or encouragement in time of need, danger, or doubt: Religion was his bulwark.
Usually bulwarks. Nautical. a solid wall enclosing the perimeter of a weather or main deck for the protection of persons or objects on deck.

verb (used with object)

to fortify or protect with a bulwark; secure by or as if by a fortification.

Origin of bulwark

1375–1425; late Middle English bulwerk, probably < Middle Dutch bolwerc, equivalent to bol(l)e bole1 + werk work (noun); cf. boulevard

Synonyms for bulwark

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

Examples from the Web for bulwark

Contemporary Examples of bulwark

Historical Examples of bulwark

  • "I prythee that you will pardon me," said the knight, clutching his way along the bulwark.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • We told these chaps we were deserters from the Bulwark, 74, and begged them to help us along.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • Hector, the bulwark of Troy, had fallen, and the ruin of the city was at hand.

    Old Greek Folk Stories Told Anew

    Josephine Preston Peabody

  • I returned on deck, where, leaning on the bulwark, I scanned the distance.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • When he had succeeded, he walked over to where the girl leaned on the bulwark.

British Dictionary definitions for bulwark



a wall or similar structure used as a fortification; rampart
a person or thing acting as a defence against injury, annoyance, etc
(often plural) nautical a solid vertical fencelike structure along the outward sides of a deck
a breakwater or mole


(tr) to defend or fortify with or as if with a bulwark

Word Origin for bulwark

C15: via Dutch from Middle High German bolwerk, from bol plank, bole 1 + werk work
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 bulwark

early 15c., from Middle Dutch bulwerke or Middle High German bolwerc, probably from bole "plank, tree trunk" (from Proto-Germanic *bul-, from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell;" see bole) + werc "work" (see work (n.)). Figurative sense is from 1570s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper