noun Nautical.

a large, usually triangular sail carried by a yacht as a headsail when running before the wind or when the wind is abaft the beam.

Origin of spinnaker

First recorded in 1865–70; said to be alteration of Sphinx, name of the first yacht making regular use of this sail
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for spinnaker

Historical Examples of spinnaker

  • His material must be conveyed across Spinnaker Lake in some other way.

  • "There's plenty of room on Spinnaker for both of us, I think," Parker replied, quietly.

  • I understand it all right, but when it comes to doing it, it comes out just like that spinnaker.

    Priscilla's Spies

    George A. Birmingham

  • The spinnaker must be the same size as the jibs in these races.

  • Such a spinnaker will be more effective than a big (p. 301) one on an ocean cruise.

British Dictionary definitions for spinnaker



a large light triangular racing sail set from the foremast of a yacht when running or on a broad reach

Word Origin for spinnaker

C19: probably from spin + (mo) niker, but traditionally derived from Sphinx, the yacht that first adopted this type of sail
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 spinnaker

"large triangular sail," 1866, either a derivative of spin in the sense of "go rapidly" or a corrupt pronunciation of Sphinx, which was the name of the first yacht known to carry this type of sail.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper