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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English runel, rennel, rinel, from Old English rynel (that which runs; runner; stream), from Proto-Germanic *runilaz, equivalent to run +‎ -el. Cognate with Scots rinel, rinnal (stream; runnel), Swedish rännel (runner; runnel).


  • IPA(key): /ˈɹʌnəl/, /ˈɹʌn.l/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ʌnəl
  • Hyphenation: run‧nel


runnel (plural runnels)

  1. A small stream, a rivulet.
    • 1892 March, “Mother Talks—A Spring Walk”, in Cora L. Stockham, Andrea Hofer, editors, The Kindergarten Magazine [], volume IV, number VII, Chicago, Ill.: Kindergarten Publishing Company, →OCLC, page 471, column 2:
      Spring, is ye comen in, / Dappled larke singe, / Snow melteth, / Runnel pelteth, / Smelleth wind of newe buddinge.
    • 1902, John Buchan, The Outgoing of the Tide:
      Every little runnel in the bay was astir, and yet the land around him was as dry as flax, and no drop of rain had fallen.
    • 1998, A. S. Byatt, Elementals: Stories of Fire and Ice, Chatto & Windus:
      [] great chambers in the rock where all sorts of plants were growing, under windows which had been cut to let in the sun, and glazed to adjust his warmth, and where runnels of water ran between fruit trees and seedlings, pumpkin plants and herbs.

Derived terms[edit]



runnel (third-person singular simple present runnels, present participle (UK) runnelling or (US) runneling, simple past and past participle (UK) runnelled or (US) runneled)

  1. To create channels for directing the flow of liquid.
    • 2009, Neil Saintilan, Australian Saltmarsh Ecology, →ISBN, page 176:
      Not all saltmarshes are suited to habitat modification, but where they are, runnelling provides long-term and cost-effective control with minor non-target impacts.
    • 2014, Paul Salopek, Blessed. Cursed. Claimed., National Geographic (December 2014)[1]
      The people who settled here weren’t farmers. They hunted. Yet they built a large amphitheater of mud, a platform carefully runneled to carry liquid—possibly blood.