Definition of tunnel in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈtʌn(ə)l/


1An artificial underground passage, especially one built through a hill or under a building, road, or river: a road tunnel through the Pyrenees the Mersey tunnel [as modifier]: the tunnel mouth
More example sentences
  • New roads and tunnels have been built and public transport modernised.
  • A bank of trees here or a cycleway there makes no odds if you're building two major new roads and a massive tunnel.
  • Drivers must now call the police immediately if their vehicles break down on elevated roads, tunnels and bridges across the Huangpu River.
underground passage, subterranean passage;
underpass, subway, hole, burrow;
shaft, gallery
historical mine, sap
1.1An underground passage dug by a burrowing animal.
Example sentences
  • It burrows a tunnel far into a sandy bank on the riverside and dwells therein, safe from cold, wind, rain and creatures that would devour it.
  • Animal tunnels incorporated into the design will also allow local wildlife to cross.
  • Burrow tunnels were examined each day; in 1999, younger nestlings left the supplements uneaten.
1.2A passage in a sports stadium by which players enter or leave the field: he jogged off the field and into the tunnel
More example sentences
  • That incident briefly flared up again as the players entered the tunnel after the game.
  • A television camera followed the Wales team from their changing room to the players' tunnel at the Millennium Stadium.
  • Wenger claimed he didn't see the scuffles between opposing players and coaches in the stadium tunnel after the match.
2 short for wind tunnel.
3A long, half-cylindrical enclosure used to protect plants, made of clear plastic stretched over hoops: cover plants in rows with a cloche tunnel
More example sentences
  • He said over the past two years he had been commercially growing bedding plants in tunnels in his garden.
  • Where hard freezes are frequent, the plants need the protection of a plastic tunnel.
  • Today Palomino grapes are frequently dried to raisins under plastic tunnels, pressed, and fortified before fermentation to make a mistela.

verb (tunnels, tunnelling, tunnelled; US tunnels, tunneling, tunneled)

1 [no object, with adverbial of direction] Dig or force a passage underground or through something: he tunnelled under the fence (tunnel one's way) the insect tunnels its way out of the plant
More example sentences
  • In recent years, badgers have tunnelled into 52 ancient monuments on Salisbury Plain.
  • Rescuers tunnelled into the wreckage taking great care to prevent further collapses.
  • They look to tunnel through corporate networks through mass emails.
dig, dig one's way, burrow;
excavate, mine, bore, drill
2 [no object] Physics (Of a particle) pass through a potential barrier.
Example sentences
  • By making the particles interact, they approximated quantum tunneling - a phenomenon forbidden by classical mechanics.
  • They are restricted to orbit given atoms, and they can only move from one to the other by quantum tunneling.
  • In photon tunneling, the intensity of evanescent light is reduced when the lasing particle is approached by a non-lasing one.


light at the end of the tunnel

see light1.



Example sentences
  • The work by specialist tunnellers, which will take nearly three months to complete, is part of a giant engineering jigsaw that Scottish Water says will bring Glasgow's water supply into the 21st century.
  • Underground worker Roger Barron, 53, revealed that some coalface workers and tunnellers were earning up to £1,000 a week before Wistow closed.
  • Room after room of the city's buildings had holes hacked through the walls by tunnellers.


Late Middle English (in the senses 'tunnel-shaped net' and 'flue of a chimney'): from Old French tonel, diminutive of tonne 'cask'. sense 1 of the noun dates from the mid 18th century.

Words that rhyme with tunnel

Chunnel, funnel, gunnel, gunwale, runnel

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: tun¦nel

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