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From Middle English sluse, alteration of scluse, from Anglo-Norman escluse (sluice, floodgate), from Late Latin exclusa (extrusion, gate), from Latin exclūsus, form of exclūdō (I shut out, I exclude) (English exclude). Cognate to Dutch sluis.


  • IPA(key): /sluːs/
    • (file)
  • (obsolete) IPA(key): /sljuːs/
  • Rhymes: -uːs


sluice (plural sluices)

  1. An artificial passage for water, fitted with a valve or gate, for example in a canal lock or a mill stream, for stopping or regulating the flow.
  2. A water gate or floodgate.
  3. Hence, an opening or channel through which anything flows; a source of supply.
    • 1767, Walter Harte, Eulogius: Or, The Charitable Mason
      Each sluice of affluent fortune open'd soon.
    • 1832, [Isaac Taylor], Saturday Evening. [], London: Holdsworth and Ball, →OCLC:
      This home familiarity [] opens the sluices of sensibility.
  4. The stream flowing through a floodgate.
  5. (mining) A long box or trough through which water flows, used for washing auriferous earth.
  6. (linguistics) An instance of wh-stranding ellipsis, or sluicing.

Coordinate termsEdit

Derived termsEdit



sluicing at a mine

sluice (third-person singular simple present sluices, present participle sluicing, simple past and past participle sluiced)

  1. (transitive, rare) To emit by, or as by, flood gates.
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book I”, in Paradise Lost. [], London: [] [Samuel Simmons], [], →OCLC; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: [], London: Basil Montagu Pickering [], 1873, →OCLC, lines 700–704:
      Nigh on the plain, in many cells prepared, / That underneath had veins of liquid fire / Sluiced from the lake, a second multitude / With wondrous art founded the massy ore, / Severing each kind, and scummed the bullion-dross.
  2. (transitive) To wet copiously, as by opening a sluice
    • 1855, William Howitt, Land, Labour and Gold; or, Two Years in Victoria
      Nine - mile Creek has been dug out again and again , and has been sluiced three times
    • 1861, Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown at Oxford, London: Macmillan & Co., Chapter XIII, [1]
      [] he dried his neck and face, which he had been sluicing with cold water.
    • 1993, Paul Theroux, Millroy the Magician, p. 61,
      Millroy often described his kidneys—how he flushed them out. His lungs—the way he hyperventilated them. His heart—how he got it pumping, sluicing its gates and chambers.
    • 2000, Laurel E. Fay, Shostakovich: A Life, Oxford University Press, Chapter 7, p. 120,
      Many years later, in 1953, Shostakovich summarized his dissatisfactions with the competition more bluntly: "Rimsky-Korsakov groomed, waved, and sluiced Musorgsky with eau de cologne. My orchestration is crude, in keeping with Musorgsky."
  3. (transitive) To wash with, or in, a stream of water running through a sluice.
    to sluice earth or gold dust in a sluice box in placer mining
  4. (transitive, more generally) To wash (down or out).
  5. (intransitive) To flow, pour.
    • 1932, Robinson Jeffers, "Thurso's Landing" in The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, New York: Random House, p. 311, [3]
      In the trough behind the white wave / Helen shook her dark head, the water sluiced from her shoulders / And rose-tipped breasts.
    • Chapter 23|Out of sight of the houses he took off his clothes and let the rain sluice down on his bare body.}}
    • 1980, Peter De Vries, Consenting Adults, or The Duchess Will Be Furious, Penguin, Chapter Twelve, pp. 185-6,
      these are often my thoughts as my partner or my vis-a-vis spoons a berry into her mouth and I imagine it—see and hear it being chewed, the red juice running from its bursting pulp over her tongue, mingling with her saliva, slipping through the crevices between her teeth before sluicing down her throat and into her bloodstream.
    • 1986, Tanith Lee, Delirium's Mistress, New York: Daw Books, Book Two, Part Two, Chapter 6, p. 240,
      The huge things which had already careered into flight, they were enormous slothful sacks of billowing skin, and where the light sluiced over their bodies, they glimmered acid-blue and bronze.
  6. (linguistics) To elide the complement in a coordinated wh-question. See sluicing.

Coordinate termsEdit

  • (washing in mining): pan