From Middle English bulwerk, from Middle Dutch bolwerk, bolwerc and Middle Low German bolwerk, equivalent to bole (“tree trunk”) + work. Cognate with German Bollwerk, Danish bolværk, Swedish bålverk, Dutch bolwerk. Doublet of boulevard (from French boulevard, from Dutch); cognate with Portuguese and Spanish baluarte and Italian baluardo.
bulwark (plural bulwarks)
- A defensive wall or rampart.
- c. 1587–1588, [Christopher Marlowe], Tamburlaine the Great. […] The First Part […], part 1, 2nd edition, London: […] [R. Robinson for] Richard Iones, […], published 1592, OCLC 932920499; reprinted as Tamburlaine the Great (A Scolar Press Facsimile), Menston, Yorkshire; London: Scolar Press, 1973, →ISBN, Act III, scene iii:
- Let thouſands die, their ſlaughtered Carkaſſes
Shal ſerue for walles and bulwarkes to the reſt:
- A defense or safeguard.
- A breakwater.
- (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.
- 1851 November 14, Herman Melville, chapter 3, in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, OCLC 57395299, page 11:
- Entering that gable-ended Spouter-Inn, you found yourself in a wide, low, straggling entry with old-fashioned wainscots, reminding one of the bulwarks of some condemned old craft.
- (figuratively) Any means of defence or security.