under sail

Also found in: Idioms.
Related to under sail: in full sail


1. Nautical
a. A piece of fabric sewn together and fitted to the spars and rigging of a vessel so as to convert the force of the wind into forward motion of the vessel.
b. The sails of a ship or boat.
c. A narrow fairwater supporting the bridge of a submarine.
2. pl. sail or sails Nautical A sailing vessel.
3. Nautical A trip or voyage in a sailing craft.
4. Something, such as the blade of a windmill, that resembles a sail in form or function.
v. sailed, sail·ing, sails
1. Nautical
a. To move across the surface of water, especially by means of a sailing vessel.
b. To travel by water in a vessel.
c. To start out on such a voyage or journey: Tomorrow we sail for the islands.
d. To operate a sailing craft, especially for sport.
2. To move along or progress smoothly or effortlessly: sailed into the room five minutes late; sailed through the exam; sailed through the red light.
3. To move along through the air: The ball sailed into the stands.
v.tr. Nautical
1. To navigate or manage (a vessel).
2. To voyage upon or across: sail the Pacific.
Phrasal Verb:
sail into
To attack or criticize vigorously: sailed into the workmen for the shoddy job they were doing.
under sail
Nautical With the sails up; sailing.

[Middle English seil, from Old English segl. Sail into, from obsolete sail, to attack, from Middle English sailen, short for assailen; see assail.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
Right in front of me, not half a mile away, I beheld the HISPANIOLA under sail. I made sure, of course, that I should be taken; but I was so distressed for want of water that I scarce knew whether to be glad or sorry at the thought, and long before I had come to a conclusion, surprise had taken entire possession of my mind and I could do nothing but stare and wonder.

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