AskDefine | Define barrel

Dictionary Definition



1 a tube through which a bullet travels when a gun is fired [syn: gun barrel]
2 a cylindrical container that holds liquids [syn: cask]
3 a bulging cylindrical shape; hollow with flat ends [syn: drum]
4 the quantity that a barrel (of any size) will hold [syn: barrelful]
5 any of various units of capacity; "a barrel of beer is 31 gallons and a barrel of oil is 42 gallons" [syn: bbl] v : put in barrels [also: barrelling, barrelled]

User Contributed Dictionary



From baril.



  1. A round vessel or cask, of greater length than breadth, and bulging in the middle, made of staves bound with hoops, and having flat ends or heads. Sometimes applied to a similar cylindrical container made of metal, usually called a drum.
    a cracker barrel
  2. The quantity which constitutes a full barrel. This varies for different articles and also in different places for the same article, being regulated by custom or by law. A barrel of wine is 31 1/2 gallons; a barrel of flour is 196 pounds; of beer 31 gallons; of ale 32 gallons.
    • 1882: Again, by 28 Hen. VIII, cap. 14, it is re-enacted that the tun of wine should contain 252 gallons, a butt of Malmsey 126 gallons, a pipe 126 gallons, a tercian or puncheon 84 gallons, a hogshead 63 gallons, a tierce 41 gallons, a barrel 31.5 gallons, a rundlet 18.5 gallons. — James Edwin Thorold Rogers, A History of Agriculture and Prices in England, Volume 4, p. 205.
    • 1882: 23 Hen. VIII, cap. 4... The barrel of beer is to hold 36 gallons, the kilderkin 18 gallons the firkin 9. But the barrel, kilderkin, and firkin of ale are to contain 32, 16, and 8 gallons. — James Edwin Thorold Rogers, A History of Agriculture and Prices in England, Volume 4, p. 205.
  3. A solid drum, or a hollow cylinder or case;
    ''the barrel of a windlass; the barrel of a watch, within which the spring is coiled.
  4. A metallic tube, as of a gun, from which a projectile is discharged.
  5. A jar. [Obs.] 1 Kings xvii. 12.
  6. A tube.
  7. The hollow basal part of a feather.
  8. The part of a clarinet which connects the mouthpiece and upper joint, and looks rather like a barrel (1).
  9. In the context of "idiomatic|surfing": A wave that breaks with a hollow compartment.
  10. In the context of "US|specifically|_|New England": A waste receptacle.
    Throw it away in the trash barrel.
  11. The ribs and belly of a horse or pony.
round vessel made from staves bound with a hoop
  • French: tonneau
  • Hungarian: hordó
  • Icelandic: tunna
  • Irish: bairille
  • Italian: botte
  • Japanese: (たる, taru)
  • Korean: (, tong)
  • Russian: бочка
  • Slovene: sod
metallic tube of a gun
part of a clarinet
  • Icelandic: baula


  1. To move quickly or in an uncontrolled manner.
    He came barrelling around the corner and I almost hit him.



  1. barrel (units of measure).
Ber barrel neft 41 dollar = One barrel of oil 41 dollar


Extensive Definition

A barrel or cask is a hollow cylindrical container, traditionally made of wood staves and bound with iron hoops. Someone who makes such barrels is known as a cooper. Contemporary barrels are also made of aluminium and plastic.
Barrels often have a convex shape, bulging at the middle. This constant bulge makes it relatively easy to roll a well-built wooden barrel on its side, changing directions with little friction. It also helps to distribute stress evenly in the material by making the container more spherical.
Casks used for ale or beer have shives, spiles and keystones in their openings.
The "chime hoop" is the iron hoop nearest the end of a wooden barrel, the "bilge hoops" those nearest the bulge, or centre.
The stopper used to seal the hole in a barrel is called the bung.


In Europe in ancient times liquids like oil and wine were carried in vessels, for instance amphora, sealed with pine resin. The Romans began to use barrels in the 3rd century AD, as a result of their commercial and military contacts with the Gauls, who had been making barrels for several centuries.
For nearly 2,000 years barrels were the most convenient form of shipping or storage container for those who could afford the superior price. All kinds of bulk goods, from nails to gold coins, were stored in them. Bags and most crates were cheaper, but they were not as sturdy and they were more difficult to manhandle for the same weight. Barrels slowly lost their importance in the 20th century, with the introduction of pallet-based logistics and containerization.
In the mid 20th century, 55-gallon steel drums began to be used for the storage and transport of fluids such as water, oils and hazardous waste. Empty drums occasionally became musical instruments in a steel pan band.

Aging in barrels

The term "barrel" typically refers to wooden vessels that are small enough to be moved by hand, up to puncheon size (see below). Barrels are used for the storage of liquids, to ferment wine, to age wine (notably brandy, sherry and port) and whiskey. Some wine is fermented "in barrel," as opposed to a neutral container such as a steel or concrete tank. Wine can also be fermented in large wooden tanks, often called "open-tops" because they are open to the atmosphere. Other wooden cooperage for storing wine or spirits are called "casks", and they are large (up to thousands of gallons) with either elliptical or round heads.

Beer "Barrels"

Although it is common to refer to draught beer containers of any size as barrels, in the UK this is strictly correct only if the container holds 36 imperial gallons. The terms "keg" and "cask" refer to containers of any size, the distinction being that kegs are used for beers intended to be served using external gas cylinders. Cask ales undergo part of their fermentation process in their containers, called casks.
Casks are available in several sizes, and it is common to refer to "a firkin" or "a kil" (kilderkin) instead of a cask.
In the United States, the term "keg" commonly means a 'half barrel' size container.


English traditional, wine

Pre-1824 definitions continued to be used in the US, the wine gallon of 231 cubic inches being the standard gallon for liquids (the corn gallon of 268.8 cubic inches for solids). In Britain that gallon was replaced by the Imperial gallon. The tierce later became the petrol barrel. The tun was originally 256 gallons, which explains where the quarter, 8 bushels or 64 (wine) gallons, comes from.

English traditional, beer and ale

The US beer barrel is 31 US gallons (116.34777 litres), half a gallon less than the traditional wine barrel. (26 U.S.C. §5051

Oil barrel

The standard barrel of crude oil or other petroleum product (abbreviated bbl) is 42 US gallons (34.972 Imperial gallons or 158.987 L). This measurement originated in the early Pennsylvania oil fields, and permitted both British and American merchants to refer to the same unit, based on the old English wine measure, the tierce.
Earlier, another size of whiskey barrel was the most common size; this was the barrel for proof spirits, which was of the same volume as 5 US bushels. However, by 1866 the oil barrel was standardized at 42 US gallons.
Oil has not actually been shipped in barrels since the introduction of oil tankers, but the 42-US-gallon size is still used as a unit for measurement, pricing, and in tax and regulatory codes. Each barrel is refined into about 19½ gallons of gasoline, the rest becoming other products such as jet fuel and heating oil.
The current standard volume for barrels for chemicals and food is .

Dry goods

A barrel is standardized for other products:

Other uses

Due to the traditional barrel's distinctive shape and construction method, the term has been used to describe a variety of largely unrelated objects, such as the gun barrel and barrel organ.
The English idiom over a barrel means to be in a predicament or helpless in a situation where others are in control: "I have no choice in the matter — my creditors have me over a barrel." The phrase is said to originate from two 19th century practices: rolling drowning victims over a barrel to clear their lungs of water, or flogging someone who is bent over a barrel.
barrel in Arabic: برميل
barrel in Czech: Sud
barrel in Danish: Fad (beholder)
barrel in German: Fass
barrel in Spanish: Barril
barrel in Esperanto: Barelo
barrel in Persian: بشکه
barrel in French: Tonneau (récipient)
barrel in Scottish Gaelic: Baraille
barrel in Croatian: Bačva
barrel in Italian: Botte
barrel in Hebrew: חבית
barrel in Luxembourgish: Faass
barrel in Lithuanian: Statinė
barrel in Dutch: Vat (verpakking)
barrel in Japanese: 樽
barrel in Norwegian: Tønne
barrel in Norwegian Nynorsk: Tønne
barrel in Polish: Beczka
barrel in Russian: Бочка
barrel in Slovak: Sud
barrel in Slovenian: Sod (posoda)
barrel in Finnish: Tynnyri
barrel in Swedish: Tunna
barrel in Turkish: Fıçı
barrel in Samogitian: Bačka

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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