barrel /ˈbar(ə)l/


I. noun

1. a cylindrical container bulging out in the middle, traditionally made of wooden staves with metal hoops round them.

the wine is then matured in old barrels.
2. a barrel together with its contents

a barrel of beer.

3. a measure of capacity used for oil and beer, usually equal to 36 imperial gallons for beer and 35 imperial gallons or 42 US gallons (roughly 159 litres) for oil.

the well was producing 10,000 barrels a day.
4. a cylindrical tube forming part of an object such as a gun or a pen

a gun barrel.
5. the belly and loins of a four-legged animal such as a horse.

a Welsh mountain pony with a barrel like a butt of wine.
II. verb

1. [no obj., with adverbial of direction]
(chiefly N. Amer.) drive or move in a way that is so fast as to almost be out of control

they shot him and then barreled away in the truck.
2. [with obj.] put into a barrel or barrels.

when the young spirit is barrelled, it absorbs some of this flavour.
III. phrases

1. a barrel of laughs
[with negative]
‹informal› a source of amusement or pleasure

life is not exactly a barrel of laughs at the moment.
2. over a barrel

‹informal› in a helpless position; at someone’s mercy.

I like doing business with a man who knows he’s over a barrel.
3. with both barrels

‹informal› with unrestrained force or emotion.

cut to the quick, he let go with both barrels.
– origin Middle English: from Old French baril, from medieval Latin barriclus ‘small cask’.

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