[taf-reyl, -ruh l]

noun Nautical.

the upper part of the stern of a ship.
a rail above the stern of a ship.

Origin of taffrail

1805–15; syncopated variant of taffarel; -ai- spelling Dutch -ee-
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for taffrail

Historical Examples of taffrail

  • With the idea of gaining time she walked rapidly aft to the taffrail.

    The Rescue

    Joseph Conrad

  • We have a ladder with hooks at the top for catching on the taffrail.

    The Pit Prop Syndicate

    Freeman Wills Crofts

  • The corsair was standing by the side of Mr Tompkins, close by the taffrail.

    Picked up at Sea

    J.C. Hutcheson

  • There he lay like a log, as dumb as the man whom he had left clinging to the taffrail.

    Labrador Days

    Wilfred Thomason Grenfell

  • Then he stepped to the taffrail and looked down at the gig, which had been passed astern.

    Turned Adrift

    Harry Collingwood

British Dictionary definitions for taffrail


noun nautical

a rail at the stern or above the transom of a vessel
the upper part of the transom of a vessel, esp a sailing vessel, often ornately decorated

Word Origin for taffrail

C19: changed (through influence of rail 1) from earlier tafferel, from Dutch taffereel panel (hence applied to the part of a vessel decorated with carved panels), variant of tafeleel (unattested), from tafel table
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 taffrail

1814, alteration of tafferel "upper panel on the stern of a ship (often ornamented)" (1704), earlier, "a carved panel" (1620s), from Dutch tafereel "panel for painting or carving," dissimulation from *tafeleel, diminutive of tafel "table," from the general West Germanic borrowing of Latin tabula "slab, board" (see table (n.)). The word developed in Dutch from the custom of ornamenting the high, flat stern of old sailing ships; spelling and sense altered in English by influence of rail (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper