Definition of trawl in English:



[no object]
  • 1Fish with a trawl net or seine.

    ‘the boats trawled for flounder’
    ‘restrictions on trawling’
    • ‘The Bagnatos are a seventh generation fishing family who've been trawling the waters off Sydney for the past 50 years.’
    • ‘Katrin built a fire from deadwood, it being illegal to cut living vegetation, while I trawled for bass.’
    • ‘40 years ago a fishermen trawling the waters off the coast of Madagascar pulled up a strange specimen in their nets.’
    • ‘However, the Danish industrial boats trawl for small fish, which are mashed up and made into fish meal.’
    • ‘Under the rules, crews would either be completely banned from fishing the areas, or only be allowed to trawl during certain times of the year.’
    • ‘Broken bones, emotional scars and a missing finger are all a legacy of too many years trawling the dangerous waters around Iceland, braving the elements in a profession that has claimed 6,000 lives in a century.’
    • ‘The nets used to trawl the bottom of the sea for fish have openings as wide as the length of a rugby field and three storeys high.’
    • ‘Another problem with trawling for deep-sea fish is the damage that is done to the uncharted seabed.’
    • ‘According to the Southeastern Fisheries Association in Tallahassee, Florida, nearly 5,000 shrimpers trawled the Gulf a decade ago.’
    • ‘This method was called trawling, and the word trawler soon became synonymous with fishing boat throughout the North Atlantic.’
    • ‘These may be expected in rocky areas or among pilings and in other habitats not well sampled by traditional methods such as seining or trawling.’
    • ‘For decades, the coral formations and their marine life have been literally devastated by crude dynamite fishing techniques and trawling.’
    • ‘Many of the smaller boats trawling for white fish have been failing to fill their existing quotas for several seasons.’
    • ‘Some fishing methods engender little bycatch, whereas others, like trawling for shrimp, kill up to 10 pounds of fish per pound of shrimp.’
    • ‘He said: ‘It is appalling that while we are expected to accept a ban on trawling for white fish we have to sit back and watch crews from other countries catch white fish just to be turned into feed for animals.’’
    • ‘The freezer trawler could trawl down to 500m off the rough West coast.’
    • ‘Local fishing vessels trawling in Waterford Estuary have recently landed some pieces of timber which eventually attracted the attention of archaeologists.’
    • ‘Researchers say dwindling fish stocks due to trawling by foreign fishing fleets is a key cause of the increase in the ‘bush meat’ trade in Ghana.’
    • ‘His main type of fishing during his years fishing was trawling for herring, white fish and prawns.’
    • ‘These small fish can often be caught in a small net by trawling up and down a beach in water only a few inches deep.’
    angling, trawling, catching fish
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    1. 1.1with object Catch with a trawl or seine.
      ‘British cod is being replaced by hoki, trawled from great depths off New Zealand’
      • ‘And on this side of the Atlantic bizarre and beautiful fields of glass sponges have been trawled to oblivion.’
      • ‘The stocks of fish, which people have been trawling for hundreds of years, declined dramatically as soon as the company started mining’
      • ‘And with this shaft of light, he says skippers should take the chance to prove haddock can be trawled without effecting cod.’
      • ‘Our new measures must include better technical standards, including bigger mesh sizes to prevent juvenile fish being trawled up and discarded.’
      • ‘There I had the opportunity to participate in research cruises and see firsthand the wonderful creatures that were trawled up from as much as 4,000 feet [1,220 meters].’
      • ‘First the pair drag steel rollers between them to break up the coral and then come back over the same area to trawl the fish.’
      • ‘They also collect water samples for the Marine Institute and samples of deepwater corals which are sometimes trawled up by Irish vessels.’
      • ‘Northeast Utilities Environmental Laboratory staff list it among fishes they have trawled in Long Island Sound.’
    2. 1.2with object Drag or trail (something) through water.
      ‘she trawled a toe to test the temperature’
      • ‘Capturing boys playing baseball and fishermen trawling the nets, his photographs knock aside traditional representations of Mt Fuji as a beautiful, unspoilt wonder to expose the ordinary human world that lives at its foot.’
      haul, pull, draw, tug, heave, trail, tow
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  • 2Search thoroughly.

    ‘the Home Office trawled through twenty-five-year-old confidential files’
    with object ‘he trawled his memory and remembered locking the door’
    • ‘But as I trawled through them all, I began to worry.’
    • ‘He trawled through public libraries and records offices for information about the ‘chariots’, and attempted to trace some of the people in his father's photographs and letters.’
    • ‘So this evening hasn't been entirely productive - but four hours trawling the web has allowed me to gain good product knowledge and find solutions that will cost me £160 less than I had budgeted.’
    • ‘As part of their investigation, the police even trawled through the Evening Advertiser's CCTV footage to see if the thieves had been caught in the act.’
    • ‘There is a web facility which trawls all online news stories and writes a sort of composite article.’
    • ‘Cynically, I could say their set list had a slight stench of predictability as they trawled through singles off both albums, finishing with the better known hits but leaving out a lot of their trademark experimentation.’
    • ‘For two days we trawled a patch of water 3 miles or so off Mevagissey.’
    • ‘She trawls auctions and markets for 50's and 60's retro designs.’
    • ‘For his research, Mr Shaw trawled through the minutes of more than 600 meetings, many beautifully hand-written in old Woolworths jotters.’
    • ‘After his death, I trawled through all of his speeches I could locate, from his maiden speech at Westminster to the verbatim report of proceedings at Holyrood.’
    • ‘It is believed the group trawls the internet targeting websites where the registration has lapsed.’
    • ‘She has spent long hours trawling the streets of Dumbarton to collect signatures for a petition, and she helped to organise a public meeting, opposing the health board proposals, which was attended by 300 people.’
    • ‘And 20-odd years of experience earned in the contracts field and trawling the trade fairs and factories of Italy, Germany and Spain has given the couple plenty of time to suss out what works and what wears well.’
    • ‘It paddles along the surface for thirty seconds, then dives to trawl the muddy bottom for worms and aquatic insects.’
    • ‘The contraption is trawling the waters between the Bridgewater Canal at Castlefield, through the Rochdale Canal in Manchester city centre and up the Ashton Canal to collect rubbish dumped in the water by visitors and locals.’
    • ‘But for whatever reason, even trawling my memory of the movie I can't come up with any directorial choices that seemed to enhance or deepen the movie.’
    • ‘I trawled through the accounts for the last three years to see where it had gone and found a host of different funds, all with balances.’
    • ‘Stuck in Troy's apartment and unwilling to face the brashness of Broadway on a snowy February night in the heart of Manhattan, I instead surfed the internet and trawled through New York City's real estate turnover.’
    • ‘I trawled the MT support forum for relevant assistance.’
    • ‘I trawled through bookshops, I searched for the perfect cup of coffee, I bought records by Ella Fitzgerald from the second hand record shop on the way to the Grafton Centre.’


  • 1An act of fishing with a trawl net or seine.

    ‘they had caught two trout on the lazy trawl up-lake’
    • ‘They've started doing some trawls as they approached the sea mounts, so yesterday they ran a net at 1.3 kilometres deep in an area of open ocean that was 3.6 kilometres deep.’
    • ‘They spend most of their time half-buried in the sand, and are thus particularly liable to be taken by trawls.’
    • ‘We can restrict the numbers of our own boats, we can insist that they have scientists, scientists monitoring the trawl and we can ban the pair trawling within our own waters.’
    tug, towing, haul, pull, drawing, drag, trailing, trawl
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    1. 1.1 A large wide-mouthed fishing net dragged by a boat along the bottom of the sea or a lake.
      • ‘Sampling was done with a Bongo trawl attached to a boat.’
      • ‘When I dived the Borgny, an old trawl net was draped round the stern along the seabed.’
      • ‘Most of the larger boats use single trawls while the smaller inshore vessels often fish by dropping creels in what supporters describe as a truly sustainable fishery.’
      • ‘The torches illuminated the irregular shape of a trawl net.’
      • ‘We also know that many species are caught in phenomenally large numbers by fishing them, typically as by-catch from longline fishing worldwide, but also from trawls and gill net, than any other kinds of fishery.’
      • ‘South Africa made history in 1938 when a coelacanth was found in a trawl net in the East London harbour.’
      • ‘Shaking his head, Glanville tells me that he once dragged up the husk of a 1939 Oldsmobile in his trawl.’
      • ‘The second unknown squid lost its tentacles in the trawl net.’
      • ‘The bridge can be a little confusing when conditions deteriorate, as it is draped in trawl net, but a diver can see and swim inside many parts of it.’
      • ‘The death of most of these turtles is due to drowning in trawl nets (and not by boat or propeller hits).’
      • ‘More supposed fuel for the anti-commercial fishing fire is the idea that fishing with trawls and dredges changes the bottom, and that such changes are not acceptable.’
      • ‘The trawl net is like a long bag, and dragged underwater behind the trawler for about four hours.’
      • ‘Briefly, animals were collected with a mid-water trawl net fitted with a light-tight, thermally insulated cod-end, brought to the surface in the closed cod-end, and sorted out under dim red light.’
      • ‘Dropping to deck level at 26m on the port side, the railing is intact and draped with several layers of trawl net.’
      • ‘A trawl is a large fishing net that is towed along the bottom of the river.’
      • ‘In May 1990, the National Academy of Sciences estimated that as many as 55,000 sea turtles annually drown in American shrimp nets not equipped with turtle excluder device that allow turtles to escape the trawl net.’
      • ‘Whereas a trawl net has to be fairly solid because it's being dragged through the water behind a large vessel, so they tend to be quite distinctive.’
      • ‘A large trawl net has been snagged and abandoned close to the bridge.’
      • ‘The wreck is very heavily netted, with trawl nets wrapped closely around her.’
      • ‘At the end of his dive, woe betide any luckless invertebrate in the path of his trawl net.’
  • 2A thorough search.

    ‘a constant trawl for information’
    • ‘For historians who know the importance of local and regional studies, these detailed accounts of constituency politics, based on an exhaustive trawl through local and national archives, will be of immense value.’
    • ‘Many police trawls did not turn up sufficient evidence to satisfy the burden of proof.’
    • ‘At the moment I'm having a lazy trawl thru the Sunday papers but no dice yet…’
    • ‘We are taking the situation seriously and we are taking a trawl through all our permits.’
    • ‘But it's wildly unlikely that the police would score any direct hits from speculative trawls through the archive footage.’
    • ‘We have had a quick trawl through the Net and come up with a nice, safe, lovely Thanksgiving site.’
    • ‘There are no big surprises on this record, no sudden forays into electronica or hip hop, no eclectic trawls through different styles and genres.’
    • ‘By night the city becomes a lavishly evocative backdrop to leisurely trawls round its restaurants, clubs and bars.’
    • ‘After ten minutes of this, and a couple of anxious trawls up and down the bars, I embarked on a third tour, this time going outside, where in the dark alleyway a soft voice said, ‘Is that Tony?’’
    • ‘A nationwide trawl of the country's aspiring male and female models was combed down to a shortlist of 70 potential supermodels and Sarah is one of 25 finalists chosen from that group.’
    • ‘These sites are more than trawls for information, given that they can be updated when needs be.’
    • ‘Site owners have to pay for bandwidth used by images, news aggregators, and archive trawls.’
    • ‘The scheme also led to administrative headaches, with painstaking and tortuous trawls through paper-based employment records, some extending back over 50 years.’
    • ‘I've discovered and love Reblochon, Roquefort and Cantal (these are in no particular order) in my Parisian market trawls.’
    • ‘Some three years after their last album, the boys and girls from Oregon are back with another set of long, stoned trawls through the backwaters of American folk, psychedelia and the avant-garde.’
    • ‘If my trawl is indicative, net cruisers must grow mighty frustrated.’
    • ‘It is entirely fitting that Tiger Woods should prepare for the Open Championship with a now-traditional trawl through Ireland with his golf clubs and fishing tackle.’
    • ‘During the 1990s, Haruo Ogi of Hokkaido University found a tenfold increase of plastic particles in his trawls off Japan.’
    • ‘This, incidentally, suggests we have a trawl within a trawl, as it is not part of the usual business of Transport Police to operate as ticket inspectors.’
    • ‘Data trackers will find better sources if they discover bogus information in their data trawls.’
  • 3North American A long sea-fishing line along which are tied buoys supporting baited hooks on short lines.

    • ‘Once there, they fanned out in two-man dories to set trawls, longlines studded with multiple baited hooks, for cod and halibut.’
    • ‘It is a sophisticated fishing tool, the programme allows the skipper to superimpose trawling drags and scallop grounds onto a computer map on the screen in front of him, using shading and coloured lines to distinguish different trawls.’
    • ‘And so we worked away for several hours, Kirk navigating the boat and hauling the trawls with the hydraulic winch, Tom hooking the trawl lines, and me trying to neither get in the way nor appear completely useless.’
    • ‘Vessels hunting the valuable Pantagonian toothfish use trawl lines tens of kilometres long bearing tens of thousands of razor sharp hooks.’


Mid 16th century (as a verb): probably from Middle Dutch traghelen ‘to drag’ (related to traghel ‘dragnet’), perhaps from Latin tragula ‘dragnet’.