American English

Definition of barrel noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1a large round container, usually made of wood or metal, with flat ends and, usually, curved sides a beer/wine barrel see also rain barrel
  2. 2the contents of or the amount contained in a barrel. An oil barrel contains 42 gallons (158.9 l) They got through a barrel (= 31 gallons or 117.3 l) of beer. Oil prices fell to $9 a barrel.
  3. 3the part of a gun like a tube through which the bullets are fired Tom found himself looking down the barrel of a gun. The barrel was aimed directly at me. He fired one barrel and then fired again.
  4. Idioms
    a barrel of laughs (often ironic)
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    very amusing; a lot of fun Life hasn't exactly been a barrel of laughs lately.
    be like shooting fish in a barrel (informal)
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    used to emphasize how easy it is to do something What do you mean you can't do it? It'll be like shooting fish in a barrel!
    lock, stock, and barrel
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    including everything He sold the business lock, stock, and barrel.
    (get/have somebody) over a barrel (informal)
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    (to put/have someone) in a situation in which they must accept or do what you want They've got us over a barrel. Either we agree to their terms or we lose the money.
    scrape (the bottom of) the barrel (disapproving)
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    to have to use whatever things or people you can get, because there is not much choice available
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: barrel