• synonyms


or dyke

  1. an embankment for controlling or holding back the waters of the sea or a river: They built a temporary dike of sandbags to keep the river from flooding the town.
  2. a ditch.
  3. a bank of earth formed of material being excavated.
  4. a causeway.
  5. British Dialect. a low wall or fence, especially of earth or stone, for dividing or enclosing land.
  6. an obstacle; barrier.
  7. Geology.
    1. a long, narrow, cross-cutting mass of igneous rock intruded into a fissure in older rock.
    2. a similar mass of rock composed of other kinds of material, as sandstone.
  8. Australian Slang. a urinal.
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verb (used with object), diked, dik·ing.
  1. to furnish or drain with a dike.
  2. to enclose, restrain, or protect by a dike: to dike a tract of land.
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Origin of dike1

before 900; Middle English dik(e), Old English dīc < Old Norse dīki; akin to ditch
Related formsdik·er, nounun·diked, adjective


noun Slang: Disparaging and Offensive.
  1. dyke2.
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Related formsdik·ey, adjective, dik·i·er, dik·i·est.


or dike

noun Slang: Disparaging and Offensive.
  1. a contemptuous term used to refer to a lesbian.
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Origin of dyke2

1940–45; earlier in form bulldike (with a variant bulldagger); of obscure origin; claimed to be a shortening of morphodyke (variant of morphodite, a reshaping of hermaphrodite), though morphodyke is more likely a blend of morphodite and a pre-existing dyke; other hypothesized connections, such as with diked out or dike “ditch,” are dubious on semantic grounds
Related formsdyk·ey, adjective, dyk·i·er, dyk·i·est.

Usage note

The terms dyke and bull dyke are used with disparaging intent and are perceived as insulting. However, they have been adopted as positive terms of self-reference by young or radical lesbians and in the academic community. In the mainstream homosexual community, gay and lesbian remain the terms of choice.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

barrier, ditch, levee, dyke, watercourse, bank, channel, causeway

Examples from the Web for dikes

Historical Examples

  • The sea would go on changing her boundaries, with no dikes to stop her.

    The Most Sentimental Man

    Evelyn E. Smith

  • But the dikes were finished and some of the folks were beginning to clear the land.

    The Forbidden Trail

    Honor Willsie

  • The dikes were then broken, and the tide let in upon the growing crops.

  • The dikes are narrow, raised pathways beside the basins and between them.

    Diggers in the Earth

    Eva March Tappan

  • They opened their dikes, and overflowed their villages and their farms.

British Dictionary definitions for dikes


noun, verb
  1. a variant spelling of dyke 1
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  1. Greg (ory). born 1947, British television executive; director-general of the BBC (2000–04)
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  1. an embankment constructed to prevent flooding, keep out the sea, etc
  2. a ditch or watercourse
  3. a bank made of earth excavated for and placed alongside a ditch
  4. Scot a wall, esp a dry-stone wall
  5. a barrier or obstruction
  6. a vertical or near-vertical wall-like body of igneous rock intruded into cracks in older rock
  7. Australian and NZ informal
    1. a lavatory
    2. (as modifier)a dyke roll
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  1. civil engineering an embankment or wall built to confine a river to a particular course
  2. (tr) to protect, enclose, or drain (land) with a dyke
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Word Origin

C13: modification of Old English dic ditch; compare Old Norse dīki ditch



  1. slang a lesbian
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Word Origin

C20: of unknown origin
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 dikes



1931, American English, perhaps a shortening of morphadike, dialectal garbling of hermaphrodite; but bulldyker "engage in lesbian activities" is attested from 1921, and a source from 1896 lists dyke as slang for "the vulva."

[T]he word appears first in the long forms, bulldiker and bulldyking, both used in the 1920s by American blacks. No African antecedents have been found for the term, however, which leads to the possibility that this is basically just another backcountry, barnyard word, perhaps a combination of BULL and DICK. [Rawson]
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Old English dic "trench, ditch; an earthwork with a trench; moat," from Proto-Germanic *dik- (cf. Old Norse diki "ditch, fishpond," Old Frisian dik "mound, dam," Middle Dutch dijc "mound, dam, pool," Dutch dijk "dam," German Deich "embankment"), from PIE root *dheigw- "to pierce, fasten" (cf. Sanskrit dehi- "wall," Old Persian dida "wall, stronghold, fortress," Persian diz).

At first "an excavation," later (late 15c.) applied to the resulting earth mound; a sense development paralleled by cognate forms in many other languages. This is the northern variant of the word that in the south of England yielded ditch (n.).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

dikes in Science


  1. A body of igneous rock that cuts across the structure of adjoining rock, usually as a result of the intrusion of magma. Dikes are often of a different composition from the rock they cut across. They are usually on the order of centimeters to meters across and up to tens of kilometers long. See illustration at batholith.
  2. An embankment of earth and rock built to prevent floods or to hold irrigation water in for agricultural purposes.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.