Share this entry

tunnel Line breaks: tun¦nel
Pronunciation: /ˈtʌn(ə)l/

Definition of tunnel in English:


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)

Back to top  
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.


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.


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.

Words that rhyme with tunnel

Chunnel, funnel, gunnel, gunwale, runnel

Definition of tunnel in:

Share this entry


What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

Word of the day coiffeur
Pronunciation: kwäˈfər
a hairdresser