AskDefine | Define barge

Dictionary Definition

barge n : a flatbottom boat for carrying heavy loads (especially on canals) [syn: flatboat, hoy, lighter]


1 push one's way; "she barged into the meeting room" [syn: thrust ahead, push forward]
2 transport by barge on a body of water

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A large flat-bottomed towed or self-propelled boat used mainly for river and canal transport of heavy goods or bulk cargo
  2. A richly decorated ceremonial state vessel propelled by rowers for river processions
  3. A large flat-bottomed coastal trading vessel having a large spritsail and jib-headed topsail, a fore staysail and a very small mizen, and having leeboards instead of a keel
  4. One of the boats of a warship having fourteen oars
  5. The wooden disk in which bread or biscuit is placed on a mess table


Derived terms


flat-bottomed bulk carrier mainly for inland waters
rowed ceremonial vessel
coastal trading vessel
One of the boats of a warship having fourteen oars
The wooden disk in which bread or biscuit is placed on a mess table


  1. To intrude or break through, particularly in an unwelcome or clumsy manner.

Extensive Definition

A barge is a flat-bottomed boat, built mainly for river and canal transport of heavy goods. Most barges are not self-propelled and need to be moved by tugboats towing or towboats pushing them. Barges on canals (towed by draft animals on an adjacent towpath) contended with the railway in the early industrial revolution but were outcompeted in the carriage of high value items due to the higher speed, falling costs, and route flexibility of rail transport.

Modern use

Barges are still used today for low value bulk items, as the cost of hauling goods by barge is very low. Barges are also used for very heavy or bulky items; a typical barge measures 195 feet by 35 feet (59.4 meters by 10.6 meters), and can carry up to 1500 tons of cargo. As an example, on June 26, 2006, a 565 ton catalytic cracking unit reactor was shipped from the Tulsa Port of Catoosa in Oklahoma to a refinery in Pascagoula, Mississippi. While such parts are normally shipped in sections and assembled onsite, shipping the assembled unit reduces costs and does not rely on availability of construction labor at the site (which in this case is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina). Such a large item is not practical to transport over land for any significant distance and will need to be transported only 40 miles overland to get from the port to the refinery.
Self propelled barges may be used as such when traveling downstream or upstream in placid waters and operated as an unpowered barge with the assistance of a tugboat when traveling upstream in faster waters. Canal barges are usually made for the particular canal in which they will operate.

Types of barges

On the Great British canal system, the term barge is used to describe a boat wider than a narrowboat.
The people who move barges are often known as lightermen.
In the U.S. deckhands perform the labor and are supervised by a leadman and or the mate. The Captain and Pilot steer the towboat. The towboat pushes one or more barges that are held together with rigging and is called collectively the tow. The crew live aboard the towboat as it travels along the inland river system and or the intracoastal waterways. These towboats travel between ports and are also called line haul boats.
Poles are used on barges to fend off the barge as it nears other vessels or a wharf, often called pike poles, and on shallow canals for example in the UK long punt poles are used to manoeuvre or propel the barge.


Barge is attested from 1300, from Old French barge, from Vulgar Latin barga. The word originally could refer to any small boat, the modern meaning arose around 1480. Bark "small ship" is attested from 1420, from Old French barque, from Vulgar Latin barca (400 AD). The more precise meaning "three-masted ship" arose in the 17th century, and often takes the French spelling for disambiguation.
Both are probably derived from a Latin *barica, from Greek baris "Egyptian boat", ultimately from Coptic bari "small boat", hieroglyphic D58-G29-M17-M17-D21-P1 and similar ba-y-r = "basket-shaped boat".
By extension, the term "embark" literally means to board the kind of boat called a "barque".
The long poles used to manoeuver or propel a barge have given rise to the saying, "I wouldn't touch that (subject/thing) with a barge pole." This is a variation on the phrase "I wouldn't touch that with a (insert length) pole." It appears that the association with barge poles came after the phrase was in use. Modern usage uses a ten foot pole, but the earliest instances in print involve a forty foot pole, which is improbably long for operating a barge.


Museum ships

barge in Danish: Pram
barge in German: Leichter
barge in Spanish: Gabarra
barge in French: Barge (bateau)
barge in Italian: Chiatta
barge in Hebrew: דוברה
barge in Dutch: Sleepschip
barge in Japanese: 艀
barge in Norwegian: Lekter
barge in Polish: Barka
barge in Romanian: Şlep
barge in Russian: Баржа
barge in Finnish: Proomu
barge in Swedish: Pråm
barge in Chinese: 驳船

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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