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From Middle English gonnewalle, itself from gonne (“gun”) + wale, as it used to support the ship's guns; equivalent to gun + wale.
So called because guns were mounted on it
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition
The boat has a high gunwale with a nice step to help you get over the side.
Except for the trireme none of these galleys had outriggers they were all worked over the gunwale.
Earnest's center gunwale fender eye was securely locked up on a long chain to a mooring ring.
She was already loaded almost to the gunwale; to the water edge.
The upper edge of the sheer strake is the gunwale.
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