Definition of sail in English:



  • 1A piece of material extended on a mast to catch the wind and propel a boat or ship or other vessel.

    ‘all the sails were unfurled’
    • ‘These blocks were the pulleys used in ships’ rigging to manipulate sails, masts and spars.’
    • ‘The sails caught the wind once more and they were on their way.’
    • ‘The offshore wind catches the sail on which the main sheet appears to be cleated, and the boat capsizes across the shore.’
    • ‘This in turn causes surrounding air to rush into the sail and propel the boat further.’
    • ‘Looking out over the Indian Ocean, the sails of dhow fishing vessels are dwarfed by transoceanic cargo ships gliding into the port.’
    • ‘My primary role on the boat is called a ‘grinder’, and I provide power for the winches [the circular wheels which wind the boat's sails up and down].’
    • ‘During a transition period at midcentury, the largest warships retained masts and sails while adding steampower and either paddle wheels or screw propellers.’
    • ‘If you find yourself out there, and wait patiently for just the right conditions, the wind will come up and catch the sails of the ship, blowing it right inside the bottle.’
    • ‘Rough wind pushed the boats from behind, catching in their sails.’
    • ‘Everywhere, it clogs the narrow paths between the paqa's domes, clings to the masts and sails of the ship, and teases at the lapping waves of the bay.’
    • ‘The ship had no sails or masts yet it moved at great speed through the water.’
    • ‘The wind caught the sails with a dull boom and the ship heeled about, tacking into the westerly breeze sweeping across the lake.’
    • ‘At first when sails triumphed over oars, a large square sail was rigged on the mainmast while two smaller sails fore and aft gave the ship maneuverability.’
    • ‘Storm-swiped vessels with broken masts and tattered sails beached alongside the dock, frail and weather-beaten, but home from the squall.’
    • ‘I knew it was coming to rescue us so I took down the sail and mast, took up the centerboard and brought in the rudder and lashed it all secure.’
    • ‘The boat suddenly lurched and spun about as the sail was unfurled and caught the wind.’
    • ‘We had to tie up the ships' sails with short pieces of ropes.’
    • ‘The boat slips sleepily down the harbour, until it rounds the breakwater and the wind catches its sail.’
    • ‘Through the trees you may catch glimpses of billowing sails, wind surfers, cross-lakes ferries and motor boats.’
    • ‘There were no masts or sails for catching wind and the bottoms were completely flat.’
    1. 1.1[mass noun]The use of sailing ships as a means of transport.
      ‘this led to bigger ships as steam replaced sail’
      • ‘To have the ship's company clearly visible on deck, or in the days of sail, aloft on the yards, meant that the guns were not manned.’
      • ‘Two were in the field of motive power both on land with the railways and also at sea where it replaced sail.’
      • ‘While initially, the supply to mariners for rigging and ropes was steady, when sail gave way to steam the market failed.’
      • ‘Over the past three decades, O'Brian published 20 linked novels about the Royal Navy in the age of fighting sail.’
      • ‘Technologically she was a hybrid that straddled the eras of sail and steam.’
      • ‘Steam and iron eclipsed wood and sail in the 1850s.’
      • ‘Initially, river transport was by sail and rowboat; mechanical means did not appear until the arrival of paddle-steamers in the early 1830s.’
      • ‘Fuel was heavy and expensive, and over long distances steam was no faster than sail.’
      • ‘He chooses to come to England by sail, not steamboat.’
      • ‘This is the transition from sail to steam, in other words, and the owners of the sailboat cartel aren't very happy.’
      • ‘The transition from sail to steam and the consequent reconfiguration of coasting figure prominently in the collection.’
      • ‘Powered by steam, not sail, this fire-breathing monster carved through the ocean at 12.4 knots and was covered in a thick hide of heavy armour.’
    2. 1.2archaic A sailing ship.
      ‘sail ahoy!’
  • 2Something resembling a sail in shape or function, in particular.

    • ‘The need for an inexpensive way to get around the solar system is driving research into "solar sails."’
    1. 2.1A wind-catching apparatus attached to the arm of a windmill.
      • ‘Now Selby District Council will try to resolve the deadlock over the 45 ft former windmill, a four-storey building which no longer has a roof, sails or machinery.’
      • ‘The photograph shows it, then known as Acomb Windmill, as it was when in use in the early 1900s with its unusual five sails - standard designs had just four - still attached.’
      • ‘A tourist boat putters by in the canal; the sails of the huge windmill overhead cast long, cool shadows across the road.’
      • ‘Only the sky at the top of each card is left, demarcated by the missing outlines of windmill sails, or trees, or Table Mountain.’
      • ‘A beautiful landscape shows several traditional thatched huts, but they all sport the sails seen on windmills across Holland.’
      • ‘On either side of her rose hills covered with vineyards and the gently rotating white sails of the windmills used for crushing grapes.’
    2. 2.2The broad fin on the back of a sailfish or of some prehistoric reptiles.
      • ‘Some of these early reptiles had elaborate sails on the back.’
      • ‘Moreover, and to re-emphasize the theme of branching, pelycosaurs included three major subgroups, only two bearing sails on their backs.’
      • ‘Generally, the fish should not produce and use such vortex motion any more than a sailor should advance by blowing on a sail.’
      • ‘None developed the distinctive sail that distinguished many pelycosaur groups.’
      • ‘Accordingly, where the function of the sail is thermoregulatory, the spines in are not only thin, but can and do become thinner distally.’
      • ‘These spines would have formed a tall sail or crest.’
    3. 2.3A structure by which an animal is propelled across the surface of water by the wind, e.g. the float of a Portuguese man-of-war.
      • ‘Traces of luminous iridescent blue on his back and sides, even on the sail feathers, highlight the otherwise golden image.’
      • ‘Thus, in the early morning the animal could stand with its sail oriented toward the sun.’
  • 3A voyage or excursion in a ship, especially a sailing ship or boat.

    ‘they went for a sail’
    • ‘The half-hour sail to the cape at Formentor is well worth the voyage, and you can also go by glass - bottomed boat for junior's benefit.’
    • ‘The longest leg of the journey is then the sail to Fort William and the final ascent of Ben Nevis.’
    • ‘Kate and Josie Fraser lead out a group of fellow 2003 NCAS Sailing scholarship holders on a training sail at Ballina last November.’
    • ‘A night's frantic journey or a daring sail on the treacherous winter sea is all it would take to put an ambusher in their path.’
    journey, trip, expedition, excursion, tour, hike, trek, tramp, safari, pilgrimage, quest, crusade, odyssey
    View synonyms
  • 4The conning tower of a submarine.

    • ‘The submarine Connecticut, a new Seawolf-class sub, had partly surfaced with its sail and rudder sticking through the ice on April 27.’
    • ‘An active transducer array in the sail of the submarine provides a 30° coverage.’
  • 5South African A canvas sheet or tarpaulin.

    ‘the sail covering the load of crates broke loose from the truck’
    • ‘The hotel is a low-level haven decorated with nets, bamboo, shells and thatch, where canvas sails serve as elegant sun-screens.’
    • ‘Curvy white walls, large sails, tablecloths and canvas-seat chairs gleam as radiantly as Tom Cruise's porcelain teeth.’


  • 1Travel in a boat with sails, especially as a sport or recreation.

    ‘Ian took us out sailing on the lake’
    • ‘They will train in a similar way to the older cadets, learn sailing and boat work, wear a uniform and take part in civic parades in the town.’
    • ‘‘My great grandfather, both grandfathers and father have all been involved in sailing and I first learned to sail aged five,’ he said.’
    • ‘On Monday 18 yachts sailed in the north lake where an extremely strong wind from the north created survival conditions on the windward leg to FBA North.’
    • ‘I christened her Gazelle, learned to sail on her, and took my wife and children sailing nearly every weekend.’
    • ‘When he is not working he gets involved in outdoor sports such as sailing, a long time love, and listens to a wide range of music.’
    • ‘Let us hope that some of the munificence will reach out to one of the world's cleanest, healthiest sports - yacht racing and sailing, especially for the young.’
    • ‘Mr Rothwell also believes the council should also make the cost of moorings cheaper for commercial hire sailing boats, to foster sailing on the lake.’
    • ‘As an ‘old seaman’ I was made skipper and learned to sail without them knowing it was my first flight experience in a sailboat.’
    • ‘Though the wind seemed disappointingly light, I was excited to be on an 18 foot yacht, having sailed before only in dinghies.’
    • ‘While on board, the young people will learn about sailing and seafaring and develop their own team working and interpersonal skills.’
    • ‘What I have heard is comparing power boating to sailing.’
    • ‘In his spare time, he enjoys driving his Morgan sports car, sailing and spending time at his property in Brittany.’
    • ‘I have swum in, canoed, windsurfed and sailed on the lake for many years and the biggest hassle for me has never been fast and noisy speedboats.’
    • ‘As in Sydney, the big-hitting sports for Britain were sailing, rowing and cycling.’
    • ‘The oldest Scouts, together with the Explorer Scouts, also took part in keelboat sailing on the lake.’
    • ‘But the crews are sailing downwind with the spinnaker up.’
    • ‘Great weather makes for great fun outdoors, and one of the major activities military members like to do is learn to sail.’
    • ‘From there, he went on to join a yacht crew to sail from Belize to Tahiti.’
    yacht, boat, go sailing
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    1. 1.1[with adverbial]Travel in a ship or boat using sails or engine power.
      ‘the ferry caught fire sailing between Caen and Portsmouth’
      • ‘The Windstar cruise ship that I sailed on used the same exact anchorage, which is off the island of Santorini.’
      • ‘A flotilla of more than 50 boats, yachts and lifeboats surrounded the magnificent ship as it sailed majestically into its home port.’
      • ‘The ship sailed for the Caribbean, but the infamous mutiny off Tonga resulted in Captain Bligh and a small party of loyal seamen being forced into a small boat, in which they made an epic journey to Timor.’
      • ‘Both British naval officers assumed that the engines were in working order as the ship had sailed at speed to Montevideo to escape the Ajax and Achilles.’
      • ‘Eight years later two armed Russian ships sailed along the Hamgyong coast and killed a few Korean civilians before leaving the region.’
      • ‘After the exercise the ship will sail to Palermo where she will berth with the rest of the STANAVFORMED warships.’
      • ‘Crew predicted the mission to the bottom of the world would prove hazardous even before the survey ship sailed from Portsmouth last October.’
      • ‘The Scottish Marine Vessel Nikki has completed her work in the harbour and has sailed to her home port.’
      • ‘OC Chehaitly was able to discover that Hayel had been one of a 19-strong crew on a fishing boat which had sailed from Yemen two weeks previously.’
      • ‘Amphibious assault ship HMS Bulwark has sailed for her first training programme under the White Ensign.’
      • ‘The average British sailor of those times was not very literate, and often his world was encompassed by the ship he sailed in, sometimes for years at a time.’
      • ‘It takes time for ships to sail from their home ports to deployment areas.’
      • ‘It will be the first time that the ship has sailed with the Duke's pennant flying.’
      • ‘Navy vessels and spotter aircraft were also deployed by the British Government to monitor the BNFL ships as they sailed off the Irish coast.’
      • ‘The weekend was rounded off by a Families Day, with the ship sailing back from Shoreham to Portsmouth to prepare for summer leave.’
      • ‘Sblt Tielens sailed with the ship from his home port in Cairns to Darwin as part of the sailing ship's circumnavigation of the globe.’
      • ‘Clipper ships sailed around South America and into the Pacific, carrying prospectors and immigrants.’
      • ‘Many of the crew had never sailed before with female sailors on board, so it was a new experience for all.’
      • ‘Despite sailing on a ship that rocks more than a bobble-head doll, most Sailors aboard MCMs refuse to serve on any other ship.’
      • ‘The assault ship, which has sailed for Exercise Argonaut in the Mediterranean, attracted thousands of visitors when she called at her affiliated town of Scarborough.’
      go by water, go by sea, go on a sea voyage, voyage, steam, navigate, cruise, ride the waves
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    2. 1.2[with adverbial]Begin a voyage; leave a harbour.
      ‘the catamaran sails at 3:30’
      • ‘The ship left Fleet Base West in June, 2004 and deployed to Darwin for a month of intensive crew training, before sailing for the East Asian deployment.’
      • ‘As we sailed away from the harbour I realised how I was very fortunate to be one of the lucky few to be embarking on the challenge that lay ahead.’
      • ‘The cruise ship Aurora was last night due to sail on her next voyage, just hours after docking in Southampton.’
      • ‘There are skippers sailing out of Peterhead harbour on every trip knowing they have to clear more than #8000 each month before they move into profit from their voyage.’
      • ‘I joined Tarawa the day before she sailed from Pearl Harbour and, after a short mystery tour to find my cabin, set about trying to find employment.’
      • ‘The 75-metre boat was due to sail from her home port of Stromness for the last time today.’
      • ‘In 1903, after being granted leave of absence for rest and recreation, she sailed for Japan on June 11 that year.’
      • ‘The ship, which sailed on February 11 to take up the job of Atlantic Patrol Task is expected back on August 18.’
      • ‘The Taiwan boat and its two Taiwanese crew sailed from a port in Fujian and stayed at sea because of engine problems.’
      • ‘This time it was China's turn, as a naval battle group of the People's Liberation Army, the largest ever to visit, sailed out of the harbour.’
      • ‘It was from here that Captain Cook sailed on the epic voyage which led to the discovery of Australia.’
      • ‘But then the unthinkable happened; the boat sailed off without him.’
      • ‘MEP Alyn Smith, sailed out of Mallaig harbour after signing up for a 48-hour fishing trip.’
      • ‘The British fleet is now long gone from Malta: in 1979, H.M.S. London sailed out of Valletta harbour and the link between the Royal Navy and Malta came to an end.’
      • ‘The hardship that every Navy couple endures when faced with deployment was compounded by a medical diagnosis made just days before the ship sailed.’
      • ‘The two ships sailed from Britain at the end of the summer, expecting to complete a maritime deployment which would bring them home in time for Christmas.’
      • ‘Ships of the RAN will sail from Sydney Harbour to rendezvous with our international visitors off the coast.’
      set sail, put to sea, leave port, leave dock, leave harbour, hoist sail, raise sail, weigh anchor, put off, shove off
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    3. 1.3[with object]Travel by ship on or across (a sea) or on (a route)
      ‘plastic ships could be sailing the oceans soon’
      • ‘Power boats, he says, rely solely on an engine for propulsion and usually are not stable enough for sailing open seas.’
      • ‘It wasn't until these areas were charted, the dangers known, and markets for goods discovered that private ships sailed the ocean to move goods around the planet.’
      • ‘Nobody should wish it any harm because, among others, its ship sails the oceans protecting whales and dolphins, seals and fish from over-exploitation.’
      • ‘A year later, his cooking had him sailing the seas on a cruise ship, where he worked as a galley steward.’
      • ‘Granuaile sailed the seas of Clew Bay and beyond in the 16th century and was known far and wide for her fearless attempts to hold on to the ancient Gaelic way of life.’
      • ‘That ship could sail the sea of Storms if it had to.’
      • ‘However, it also led to fewer targets as many merchant ships in the area refused to sail the Sea of Marmora.’
      • ‘More likely he sailed the seas as trader or humble fisherman.’
      • ‘The QE2 is a regular visitor and some of the Silversea ships, said to be the most expensive cruise ships sailing the oceans, make Dubai a regular port of call.’
      • ‘Since then, the number of ships sailing a Gulf of Alaska itinerary has grown to at least a dozen in 2004.’
      • ‘The author provides readers with a way to travel around the world that recalls an earlier era - namely, sailing the high seas.’
      • ‘The Tokugawa shoguns forbade the building of any ships large enough to sail the open ocean, and no one was allowed to leave the country.’
      • ‘And their plan is to continue with the following cruise, and that ship will be probably the cleanest ship sailing the ocean.’
      • ‘It profiles more than 250 ships now sailing the high seas and previews liners preparing for maiden voyages.’
      • ‘Cruises are available that go beyond the typical cruise you'd expect to find sailing the seven seas.’
      • ‘It had been fun, pretending to be a captain of a great ship that sailed the high seas.’
      • ‘It's a disgrace that British-flagged ships should sail the seas carrying British exports but the crews are foreign.’
      • ‘If you ever get the chance to sail the seven seas on one of those deluxe cruise ships and admire the shiny modern interior, you could be looking at product from Pattaya.’
      go by water, go by sea, go on a sea voyage, voyage, steam, navigate, cruise, ride the waves
      View synonyms
    4. 1.4[with object and adverbial of direction]Navigate or control (a boat or ship)
      ‘I stole a small fishing boat and sailed it to the Delta’
      • ‘Looking forward to a few days sailing his yacht, moored off the island of Phuket, Crasnianski set sail into the Straits of Malacca on Christmas Day.’
      • ‘Lo and behold Jane is forced to believe when one dreary night Captain Hook sails his ship above London and snatches Jane away under the assumption that it's Wendy!’
      • ‘Taylor said it was also the last time the liner's captain, Roger Knight, will sail a ship out of a port.’
      • ‘Mr Green, 59, said he started sailing when he needed to get away from it all and helped sail a yacht from Greece to Holland, and hasn't looked back since.’
      • ‘All tastes are catered for: you can sail a luxury yacht, play golf and dress up for dinner, or you can simply wander down to your local beach shack, sink a few Red Stripes and join an impromptu game of cricket.’
      • ‘Mr and Mrs Roger-Lund and their 16-year-old son, Lee, plan to sail the yacht in the Cape to Rio race in 1976.’
      • ‘It has also been alleged that the Burgers did not have the necessary papers and skipper's tickets to sail the yacht, which was apparently not insured.’
      • ‘Then Mr. Clegg sailed the Yacht with his wife and family on board on a cruise lasting about eight days to Falmouth, Alderney and back to Poole.’
      • ‘The evidence of Mr. Andersson and Mr. Leander was that sailing the Yacht with the existing rig and an unmodified keel was not unsafe.’
      • ‘With a crewed charter, you don't have to worry about breakdowns or provisioning or getting checked out to sail the boat.’
      • ‘But McLucas has other thoughts for the Queen's jubilee weekend - he will be sailing his yacht in the Firth of Clyde.’
      • ‘And I'm thinking how lucky we passengers are to get to help sail a tall ship - even if it's only for a morning trip.’
      • ‘Did you know that Keith is actually going to sail his yacht in the Sydney to Hobart race?’
      • ‘The user may choose from a variety of ships, or may sail a custom-made vessel.’
      • ‘After some years as a Naval Officer, he was given nine months leave to sail his yacht, Tern II, out to New Zealand.’
      • ‘The last I heard she was slowly sailing her yacht around Europe, a gargantuan task taking many summers.’
      • ‘Many of her crew sail the ship in the film or were hired to train the cast in the running of the ship.’
      steer, captain, pilot, skipper, navigate, con, helm
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  • 2[with adverbial of direction] Move smoothly and rapidly or in a stately or confident manner.

    ‘the ball sailed inside the right-hand post’
    • ‘But thanks to its new strategy, FedEx is sailing much more smoothly through this downturn.’
    • ‘Henson even had the audacity to try and drop a goal from two metres inside his own 10m line, but the ball sailed narrowly wide.’
    • ‘He didn't make it to the majors and I don't suppose I will either, but that's not what you think about when the ball comes sailing your way.’
    • ‘I watched as his hand sailed smoothly across his page and how comfortable he looked as he carefully shaded and added texture to his drawing.’
    • ‘Butler, who had now taken over the kicking duties from Feeney, looked to have struck the conversion well but into the difficult breeze, the ball sailed narrowly to the right.’
    • ‘The javelin reached the top of its arc and began sailing down.’
    • ‘For every film that sails smoothly into theatres, there are several getting re-routed to hell and back.’
    • ‘Sometimes, it takes a show a couple of seasons to work, to iron out the kinks and start sailing smoothly.’
    • ‘Finding the funding to get the plan off the ground was the most daunting task, but once launched, the Leeds International Film Festival sailed forth like a stately galleon.’
    • ‘From a Craig Nelson kick the ball sailed the length of the pitch into the heart of the Celtic area.’
    • ‘Generally speaking, things are sailing smoothly and so Mrs. Gao is not willing to disobey the official ideological demands or hints.’
    • ‘It sails smoothly throughout the majority of the running time but by the last few tracks, there is a feeling that things were wrapped up too hastily.’
    • ‘In the turn, Lion Tamer moved four wide to sail past rivals and seize the lead in early stretch.’
    • ‘His persistence in chasing down his own kick caught Hornets winger Cooper in two minds and before he'd time to blink, Cardoza had swept onto the loose ball and sailed away to the posts.’
    • ‘Barring any last-minute surprises, the trio should sail smoothly through the process.’
    • ‘It often takes time and effort to keep a friendship sailing smoothly, but it's worth it.’
    • ‘The ball sailed smoothly into the air, suspended in time for a moment.’
    • ‘He hit No.4 as the leadoff batter in the top of the tenth inning, the ball sailing over the right field screen barely inside the foul pole.’
    • ‘Bonds never moved in left field as the ball sailed far above him - a drive estimated at 434 feet.’
    • ‘And as the third sailed greenwards I began to think of that holiday in Thailand it seemed perfect but hit the front of the green and dropped into the water!’
    glide, drift, float, flow, slide, slip, sweep, skim, coast, skate, breeze, flit
    whizz, speed, streak, shoot, whip, whoosh, buzz, zoom, flash, blast, career, fly, wing, kite, skite, scud
    soar, wing, wing its way, take to the air, fly, ascend, mount, climb, arc, curve
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1informal Succeed easily at (something, especially a test or examination)
      ‘Ali sailed through his exams’
      • ‘If you've got access to computers, books, educational trips plus time and help from your parents, you are far more likely to sail through the exam process.’
      • ‘Then, in the most bizarre political claim of the year, Stephen Harper claimed that the gay marriage law lacked legitimacy because it was sailing through with the support of the Bloc.’
      • ‘Bill C - 43 sails through the house, with everyone except the Bloc voting for the Bill.’
      • ‘Despite the festive season, both boxers registered their weights within the required limit and sailed through their medical tests.’
      • ‘Since starting self-defence classes at the age of four, the lad caught the eye of instructors by sailing through tests for 32 different belts, to reach the black.’
      • ‘The client requests the change and feels she's done her part - and your design, which was perfect all along, sails through to approval.’
      • ‘Sarah Hayat, 19, admits she sailed through most of her schooling, taking exam success for granted.’
      • ‘Pupils can sail through peripheral subjects, but test them in the only ones which matter and they fall apart.’
      • ‘But while the legislation was sailing through the House, Robert Mugabe - Zimbabwe's thuggish president - was muscling his opposition.’
      • ‘In contrast, 46-year-old David Bull, a PADI instructor from Northants, sails through the tests and barely breaks into a sweat.’
      • ‘But playing mixed presenting doubles with Sue Barker will probably be a doddle for the towering hardbody, who effortlessly sails through one of the busiest schedules in sports broadcasting.’
      • ‘He has not had to do that because the teenager sails through life on an even keel, barely tipped in either direction by success or failure.’
      • ‘He's bright, as sharp as the shirt and tie he always wears and sails through exams with an annoying degree of self-confidence.’
      • ‘The child in state care who then gets good A-levels, sails through university and works productively is a rarity.’
      • ‘One I particularly like concerns a Los Angeles teacher who found that one of her brighter pupils had been helping someone slower to sail through his exams.’
      • ‘Now, he is expected to offer those plans as an energy bill amendment, which could easily sail through the Senate.’
      • ‘Up next, while it may be smooth sailing through the Senate for Colin Powell, are there confirmation battles ahead for other Bush administration nominees?’
      • ‘I was lazy at school but usually sailed through exams with minimal revision and maximum guilt and stress.’
      • ‘So it will be obvious if many kids in a state fail the national exam but sail through on the state one.’
      succeed easily at, gain success in easily, pass easily, romp through, walk through
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    2. 2.2informal Attack physically or verbally with force.
      • ‘February 1968: With Kerry aboard, the Gridley sails into war to patrol the coast of Vietnam.’
      attack, set upon, set about, fall on, assault, assail, tear into, weigh into, lay into, light into, pitch into, turn on, lash out at, hit out at, strike out at, lash, round on, drub, thump, batter, hammer, pummel, beat, paste, thrash, belabour, lambaste, berate, abuse
      let someone have it
      have a go at
      View synonyms


  • in (or under) full sail

    • With all the sails in position or fully spread.

      ‘a galleon in full sail’
      • ‘I remembered when my father once climbed those rings when we were moving under full sail to free some tangled rigging aloft.’
      • ‘Soon they were sailing away under full sail, on their way to the Lost Island.’
      • ‘These ships when in full sail could travel faster, and carry a bigger cargo, than the ordinary ship.’
      • ‘Fishing boats were to be seen returning with their catch and the sight of a Galway Hooker under full sail as it skimmed over the water brought a memorable day to a close.’
      • ‘My favourite memory of a tall ship is standing at the helm of the Lord Nelson under full sail, feeling her heel over in a stiff breeze until her port deck was awash.’
      • ‘As we passed the channel buoy we saw coming into the harbour an ancient two-master under full sail.’
      • ‘We stopped at Ranworth village for an ice-cream, feeling the superiority and relief of successfully mooring under full sail beneath the critical gaze of the crews of the engine-driven, plastic boats.’
      • ‘There is the image of the delightful, askew outhouse with tethered horse dressing up a receiver hitch as well as an elegant sailboat in full sail, and bull riders, cowboy hats and numerous others.’
      • ‘Behind the two women was painted a galleon in full sail, racing away from a large palace overlooking the shore of a tropical island.’
      • ‘When the ship was under full sail, he described the experience as ‘very exhilarating and very different compared to listening to diesel engines’.’
  • take in sail

    • Furl the sail or sails of a vessel.

      • ‘Lynsey is back in the charthouse navigating, plotting positions and the rest of the crew stand by on deck to take in sail.’
  • under sail

    • With the sails hoisted.

      ‘at a speed of eight knots under sail’
      • ‘Despite her rather hefty displacement/length ratio and moderate sail area/displacement number, performance under sail of the 35.5 is quite good.’
      • ‘Her aluminium masts are more than 30 metres high and can carry a total sail area of 740.6 square metres, giving a maximum speed under sail of 14 knots.’
      • ‘Other than developing considerable weather helm as she heels, the Catalina 30 doesn't have any particularly disturbing characteristics under sail.’
      • ‘Local artist John Colfer has produced an impression of the finished vessel under sail with Hook Head Lighthouse in the background.’
      • ‘A procession of big cruising sloops was entering the marina, and I suddenly realized that their skippers intended to dock under sail.’
      • ‘Sailors may elect to install a tri-color light at the masthead that can be used in place of deckmounted lights when the boat is under sail alone.’
      • ‘The next time I was at the helm we were under sail and the boat was much easier to handle.’
      • ‘Capable of up to 24 knots under sail, the ship departed Tokyo June 9 and arrived in Vancouver July 8 after a speedy Pacific crossing that included a bit of rough weather.’
      • ‘This is the delightful account of a voyage around the world under sail in the waning days of wooden ships and iron men as told by a 17-year-old girl.’
      • ‘The narrow ones to port and starboard are for powered craft only, with the wide segment in the middle for boats under sail.’


Old English segel (noun), seglian (verb), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch zeil and German Segel (nouns).