Definition of “sail” - English Dictionary

“sail” in British English

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uk /seɪl/ us /seɪl/

sail verb (TRAVEL)

B2 [ I usually + adv/prep ] When a boat or a ship sails, it travels on the water:

The boat sailed along/down the coast.
As the battleship sailed by/past, everyone on deck waved.
The ship was sailing to China.

B1 [ I or T, usually + adv/prep ] to control a boat that has no engine and is pushed by the wind:

He sailed the dinghy up the river.
She sailed around the world single-handed in her yacht.

[ I ] When a ship sails, it starts travelling, and when people sail from a particular place or at a particular time, they start travelling in a ship:

Their ship sails for Bombay next Friday.

More examples

  • If we sail in a southeastward direction we'll reach land.
  • I'd like to learn to sail, but I haven't the time .
  • The Kon-Tiki sailed across the Pacific Ocean propelled by wind power.
  • We sailed slowly down the river.
  • We sailed in a southwestward direction.

sail verb (MOVE QUICKLY)

[ I + adv/prep ] to move quickly, easily, and (of a person) confidently:

The ball went sailing over the fence.
He wasn't looking where he was going, and just sailed straight into her.
Manchester United sailed on (= continued easily) to victory in the final.


uk /seɪl/ us /seɪl/

sail noun (TRAVEL)

[ S ] a journey by boat or ship:

It's two days' sail/It's a two-day sail (= a journey of two days by sea) from here to the nearest island.
set sail

C2 to begin a boat journey:

We set sail from Kuwait.
They set sail for France.


(Definition of “sail” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

“sail” in American English

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sailverb [ I/T ]

us /seɪl/

to travel across water in a boat or ship, or to operate a boat or ship on the water:

[ I ] He is not fun to sail with.
[ T ] I sail a small racing boat.

Sail also means to leave on a boat or ship:

[ I ] When do we sail?

Phrasal verb(s)

sailnoun [ C ]

us /seɪl/

a sheet of material used to catch the wind and move a boat or ship:

I restored an old wooden boat and got a new canvas sail for it.

(Definition of “sail” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)