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From Middle English, from Middle Dutch bolwerk, bolwerc and Middle Low German bolwerk, equivalent to bole (tree trunk) +‎ work. Cognate with German Bollwerk, Danish bolværk, Dutch bolwerk. Doublet of boulevard (from French boulevard, from Dutch); cognate with Portuguese and Spanish baluarte and Italian baluardo.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈbʊl.wək/
  • (US) enPR: bo͝ol'wərk, bo͝ol'wôrk, IPA(key): /ˈbʊl.wɝk/, /ˈbʊl.wɔɹk/
  • (file)


bulwark (plural bulwarks)

  1. A defensive wall or rampart.
  2. A defense or safeguard.
    • (Can we date this quote by Blackstone and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      The royal navy of England hath ever been its greatest defence, [] the floating bulwark of our island.
  3. A breakwater.
  4. (nautical) The planking or plating along the sides of a nautical vessel above her gunwale that reduces the likelihood of seas washing over the gunwales and people being washed overboard.
  5. (figuratively) Any means of defence or security.



bulwark (third-person singular simple present bulwarks, present participle bulwarking, simple past and past participle bulwarked)

  1. (transitive) To fortify something with a wall or rampart.
  2. (transitive) To provide protection of defense for something.