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a cylindrical wooden container with slightly bulging sides made of staves hooped together, and with flat, parallel ends.
the quantity that such a vessel of some standard size can hold: for most liquids, 31½ U.S. gallons (119 L); for petroleum, 42 U.S. gallons (159 L); for dry materials, 105 U.S. dry quarts (115 L).
Abbreviation: bbl.
any large quantity:
a barrel of fun.
any container, case, or part similar to a wooden barrel in form.
Ordnance. the tube of a gun.
Machinery. the chamber of a pump in which the piston works.
a drum turning on a shaft, as in a weight-driven clock.
Horology. the cylindrical case in a watch or clock within which the mainspring is coiled.
Ornithology Obsolete. a calamus or quill.
the trunk of a quadruped, especially of a horse, cow, etc.
Nautical. the main portion of a capstan, about which the rope winds, between the drumhead at the top and the pawl rim at the bottom.
a rotating horizontal cylinder in which manufactured objects are coated or polished by tumbling in a suitable substance.
any structure having the form of a barrel vault.
Also called throat. Automotive. a passageway in a carburetor that has the shape of a Venturi tube.
to put or pack in a barrel or barrels.
to finish (metal parts) by tumbling in a barrel.
Informal. to force to go or proceed at high speed:
He barreled his car through the dense traffic.
Informal. to travel or drive very fast:
to barrel along the highway.
over a barrel, Informal. in a helpless, weak, or awkward position; unable to act:
They really had us over a barrel when they foreclosed the mortgage.
Historical Examples

barrelled Cod, Lent fish, are best in winter or about March.
The Gastronomic Regenerator: Alexis Soyer

They barrelled many, but in general there is an import of Swedish.
A Tour in Ireland Arthur Young

I can conceive that infected air can be barrelled up, not in a hogshead of rum, nor perhaps sucre, but in a barrel of coffee.
The Life Of Thomas Paine, Vol. II. (of II) Moncure Daniel Conway

There is another arrow, known as the barrelled arrow, which is largest in the middle, and tapers thence towards each end.
The Theory and Practice of Archery Horace Ford

This was the “spirit-house,” used for the storage of the spirits of turpentine when barrelled for market, and awaiting shipment.
Among the Pines James R. Gilmore

Some of the Northern States have collected and barrelled up paper money.
The Life of John Marshall (Volume 1 of 4) Albert J. Beveridge

The cylindrical and the barrelled shapes are therefore recommended as the best for target-shooting.
The Theory and Practice of Archery Horace Ford

But both the arches of the lantern and the barrelled vault of the choir keep the round arch.
Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine Edward A. Freeman

By old custom this was collected, barrelled, and sold for the benefit of the ship.
From Sail to Steam, Recollections of Naval Life Captain A. T. Mahan

To prepare it for market the leaves are cut before the seed stalk appears, and after washing are barrelled or crated for shipment.
Farm Gardening with Hints on Cheap Manuring Anonymous

a cylindrical container usually bulging outwards in the middle and held together by metal hoops; cask
Also called barrelful. the amount that a barrel can hold
a unit of capacity used in brewing, equal to 36 Imperial gallons
a unit of capacity used in the oil and other industries, normally equal to 42 US gallons or 35 Imperial gallons
a thing or part shaped like a barrel, esp a tubular part of a machine
the tube through which the projectile of a firearm is discharged
(horology) the cylindrical drum in a watch or clock that is rotated by the mainspring
the trunk of a four-legged animal: the barrel of a horse
the quill of a feather
(informal) a large measure; a great deal (esp in the phrases barrel of fun, barrel of laughs)
(Austral, informal) the hollow inner side of a wave
(informal) over a barrel, powerless
(informal) scrape the barrel, to be forced to use one’s last and weakest resource
verb -rels, -relling, -relled (US) -rels, -reling, -reled
(transitive) to put into a barrel or barrels
(intransitive; foll by along, in, etc) (informal) (intransitive) to travel or move very fast
(Austral, informal) to ride on the inside of a wave

c.1300, from Old French baril (12c.) “barrel, cask, vat,” with cognates in all Romance languages (e.g. Italian barile, Spanish barril), but origin uncertain; perhaps from Gaulish, perhaps somehow related to bar (n.1). Meaning “metal tube of a gun” is from 1640s. Barrel roll in aeronautics is from 1927.

mid-15c., “to put in barrels,” from barrel (n.). Meaning “to move quickly” is 1930, American English slang, perhaps suggestive of a rolling barrel. Related: Barreled; barreling.

v,v phr

To speed, esp to drive a car very fast (late 1920s+)

Related Terms

cracker-barrel, in the barrel, like shooting fish in a barrel, over a barrel, scrape the bottom of the barrel

a vessel used for keeping flour (1 Kings 17:12, 14, 16). The same word (cad) so rendered is also translated “pitcher,” a vessel for carrying water (Gen. 24:14; Judg. 7:16).


both barrels
bottom of the barrel
cash on the barrelhead
like shooting fish in a barrel
lock, stock, and barrel
more fun than a barrel of monkeys
over a barrel
pork barrel
rotten apple (spoils the barrel)


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