Word of the Day


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a small covered canoe (a narrow boat with a point at each end) that you move with a single paddle that has two flat ends

Origin and usage

The word kayak comes from the Danish word ‘kajak’, which itself originate from the Greenland Eskimo word ‘qayaq’ meaning ‘small boat of skins’. It first appeared in English in 1757.


Kayak is a noun that describes a type of small boat that is covered except for a round opening where a person sits, using a double-sided paddle to move the boat through the water. Kayaking is a popular outdoor activity on lakes and rivers, though some more adventurous kayakers prefer to take their small boats out into the ocean or rough, swift-moving sections of larger rivers.

The longest ever trip in a kayak was undertaken by a German adventurer named Oskar Speck in 1932. Speck travelled 30,000 miles over the course of nearly eight years, from the River Danube all the way to Australia. Along the way, Speck encountered soaking monsoon rains, biting mosquitoes, gnarled mangrove trees looming in dark grey swamps, a crippling bout of malaria, kayaks that were stolen or destroyed, angry open seas, dangerous crocodiles, and many other hazards.

Speck was not terribly experienced in a kayak, but he was enthusiastic. He quickly learned many tricks to help him along on his journey, like fitting his kayak with a small sail to double his speed and figuring out how to twist and turn in the open ocean to avoid tipping the boat over in big waves.

In nearly eight years of travelling by kayak across 30,000 miles, Oskar Speck never learned to swim.

Related words

raft, canoe, coracle
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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