Definition of bowline in English:



  • 1A rope attached to the weather leech of a square sail and leading forward, thus helping the ship sail nearer the wind.

    • ‘She grabbed him and yanked him unceremoniously into the boat, and untied the bowline herself.’
    • ‘Outside the harbor, the waves were high enough that we had to grip the bowlines to keep our feet.’
  • 2A nonbinding knot for forming a nonslipping nonjamming loop at the end of a rope.

    • ‘I learned to tie my knots, especially the difficult bowline.’
    • ‘While we tied a bowline loop in the end of a rope I called, ‘What sort of shape's he in?’’
    • ‘At the other end, I have a length of webbing wrapped once completely around the tree with loops tied in either end, also with bowlines (otherwise known as a ‘rabbit runner’).’
    • ‘Trial watchers in the public gallery could be seen practising their bowlines as forensic scientist Rodger Ide gave an insight into the techniques of examining knots.’
    • ‘Slip the loop of the bowstring over the nock and down the limb of the bow and tie the free end of the string to the other nock using a timber hitch, bowline or similar non-stressing knot.’
    • ‘‘A hideous thing to watch, even as a quasi-curious foreigner,’ was Thompson's initial reaction, despite his assertion that he ‘can still tie a mean bowline knot on just about anything in less than ten seconds’.’
    • ‘Now show me how to tie that bowline knot again, my friend.’
    • ‘Out he sprang like a stag before the boat could be blown back into the sea and tied his vessel to the footbridge with a perfect bowline.’
    • ‘Do not use a bowline - it will probably come undone in your pocket and let you down the moment you come to deploy it.’
    • ‘The other Alan, trying to be grown up, was sat there painting on a beard with a burnt bit of cork and practising tying a bowline with his left hand’
    • ‘To secure your donkey while you sleep, dine, sightsee or shop, you'll need to demonstrate proficiency with the chair or bowline knot.’


Middle English: from Middle Low German bōlīne, Middle Dutch boechlijne, from boeg ship's bow + lijne line.