Dictionary > Sail


1. To be impelled or driven forward by the action of wind upon sails, as a ship on water; to be impelled on a body of water by the action of steam or other power.
2. To move through or on the water; to swim, as a fish or a water fowl.
3. To be conveyed in a vessel on water; to pass by water; as, they sailed from london to Canton.
4. To set sail; to begin a voyage.
5. To move smoothly through the air; to glide through the air without apparent exertion, as a bird. As is a winged messenger of heaven, . . . When he bestrides the lazy pacing clouds, And sails upon the bosom of the air. (Shak)
Origin: AS. Segelian, seglian. See Sail.
Origin: OE. Seil, AS. Segel, segl; akin to D. Zeil, OHG. Segal, G. & Sw. Segel, Icel. Segl, Dan. Seil.
1. An extent of canvas or other fabric by means of which the wind is made serviceable as a power for propelling vessels through the water. Behoves him now both sail and oar. (milton)
2. Anything resembling a sail, or regarded as a sail.
3. A wing; a van. Like an eagle soaring To weather his broad sails. (Spenser).
4. The extended surface of the arm of a windmill.
5. A sailing vessel; a vessel of any kind; a craft.
In this sense, the plural has usually the same forms as the singular; as, twenty sail were in sight.
6. A passage by a sailing vessel; a journey or excursion upon the water.
Sails are of two general kinds, fore-and-aft sails, and square sails. Square sails are always bent to yards, with their foot lying across the line of the vessel. Fore-and-aft sails are set upon stays or gaffs with their foot in line with the keel. A fore-and-aft sail is triangular, or quadrilateral with the after leech longer than the fore leech. Square sails are quardrilateral, but not necessarily square. See phrases under Fore, and Square,; also, bark, Brig, schooner, ship, stay. Sail burton, to lower the sails suddenly, as in saluting, or in sudden gusts of wind; hence, to acknowledge inferiority; to abate pretension. Under sail, having the sails spread.