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A side view of the water
A culvert draining into a small river.
Culvert headwall


Origin obscure,[1] with a number of possible etymologies suggested:

  1. a dialectal word,
  2. a word related to the name of the now-forgotten inventor,[1]
  3. a derivation from French couvert (covered), although couvert is not used in this sense and the French translation of culvert is ponceau or buse de drainage,
  4. a derivation from an unrecorded Dutch word, possibly *coul-vaart, a combination of Dutch coul-, from French couler (to flow), and Dutch vaart (a trip by boat, a canal).


  • IPA(key): /ˈkʌlvə(ɹ)t/
  • (file)


culvert (plural culverts)

  1. A channel crossing under a road or railway for the draining of water.
    • 1922, Virginia Woolf, Jacob's Room, Vintage Classics, paperback edition, page 91
      A raft of twigs stayed upon a stone, suddenly detached itself, and floated towards the culvert.
    • 1996, Janette Turner Hospital, Oyster, Virago Press, paperback edition, page 167
      After she left, I ran away for a day, and hid myself, solitary, in a culvert under the railway lines.

Derived terms[edit]



culvert (third-person singular simple present culverts, present participle culverting, simple past and past participle culverted)

  1. To channel (a stream of water) through a culvert.
    • 2020, Ben Aaronovitch, False Value, Gollancz, pages 234-235:
      This led to a great deal of straightening and culverting, which in turn led to a massive loss of biodiversity.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Douglas Harper (2001–2023), “culvert”, in Online Etymology Dictionary, retrieved 3 October 2020.

Middle English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]


From Old French colvert, from Late Latin collībertus.


  • IPA(key): /ˈkulvɛrt/, /ˈkulward/



  1. vile, nefarious