1. A large cylindrical container, usually made of staves bound together with hoops, with a flat top and bottom of equal diameter.
2. The quantity that a barrel with a given or standard capacity will hold.
3. Abbr. bar. or bbl. or bl. Any of various units of volume or capacity. In the U.S. Customary System it varies, as a liquid measure, from 31 to 42 gallons (120 to 159 liters) as established by law or usage. See Table at measurement.
4. The cylindrical part or hollow shaft of any of various mechanisms, as:
a. The metal, cylindrical part of a firearm through which the bullet travels.
b. A cylinder that contains a movable piston.
c. The drum of a capstan.
d. The cylinder within the mechanism of a timepiece that contains the mainspring.
5. The trunk of a quadruped animal, such as a horse or cow.
6. Informal A large quantity: a barrel of fun.
7. Slang An act or instance of moving rapidly, often recklessly, in a motor vehicle.
Likened to a barrel, as in shape: a barrel chest; barrel hips.
v.bar·reled or bar·relled, bar·rel·ing or bar·rel·ling, bar·rels
To put or pack in a barrel.
To move at a high speed or rate of progress: That the European Union barreled ahead was not surprising(Richard W. Stevenson).
on the barrel/barrelhead
Granting, giving, or requesting no credit: paid cash on the barrel for the car.
over a barrel
In a very awkward position from which extrication is difficult: During the negotiations the opposing faction had us over a barrel.
[Middle English barel, from Old French baril.]
barrel /brl/ n.1 a large, round container made of metal or wood: Oil is sold by the barrel.2 the amount that a barrel holds, usu. between 117 and 159 liters (31 to 42 gallons) 3 a cylinder, esp. the straight, hollow tube of a gun: The barrel of a gun guides the bullet.4infrml.fig.to have s.o. over a barrel: to give s.o. no choice: The government had the man over a barrel by demanding that he sell his land for little money or they would take it for nothing. adj. big like a barrel: Many well-fed workers are barrel-chested. phrasal v.[I] to barrel along: to drive fast: He barrels along in his car at 80 mph on the highway.