a portion of an ocean or sea partly enclosed by land.
a deep hollow; chasm or abyss.
any wide separation, as in position, status, or education.
something that engulfs or swallows up.

verb (used with object)

to swallow up; engulf.

Origin of gulf

1300–50; Middle English go(u)lf < Old French golfe < Italian golfo < Late Greek kólphos, Greek kólpos bosom, lap, bay
Related formsgulf·like, adjectivegulf·y, adjective
Can be confusedbay cove gulf inlet

Synonyms for gulf Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for gulf

Contemporary Examples of gulf

Historical Examples of gulf

  • Settlements have been established on the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria.

  • The gulf which separates parents and children is one which the parents must cross.

  • As a matter of fact, we dig a gulf between the material and the spiritual which does not exist.

  • She passed listlessly out, and down the path toward the gulf.

    In the Valley

    Harold Frederic

  • For her sake—for your Fanny's sake—pause, like me, before the gulf swallow us.

    Night and Morning, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

British Dictionary definitions for gulf



a large deep bay
a deep chasm
something that divides or separates, such as a lack of understanding
something that engulfs, such as a whirlpool


(tr) to swallow up; engulf
Derived Formsgulflike, adjectivegulfy, adjective

Word Origin for gulf

C14: from Old French golfe, from Italian golfo, from Greek kolpos


noun the Gulf

the Persian Gulf
  1. the Gulf of Carpentaria
  2. (modifier)of, relating to, or adjoining the GulfGulf country
NZ the Hauraki Gulf
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 gulf

late 14c., "profound depth;" geographic sense is c.1400; from Old French golf "a gulf, whirlpool," from Italian golfo "a gulf, a bay," from Late Latin colfos, from Greek kolpos "bay, gulf," earlier "trough between waves, fold of a garment," originally "bosom," the common notion being "curved shape," from PIE *kwelp- "to arch, to vault" (cf. Old English hwealf, a-hwielfan "to overwhelm"). Latin sinus underwent the same development, being used first for "bosom," later for "gulf." Replaced Old English sæ-earm. Figurative sense of "a wide interval" is from 1550s. The Gulf Stream (1775) takes its name from the Gulf of Mexico.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Science definitions for gulf



A large body of ocean or sea water that is partly surrounded by land.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.