AskDefine | Define gully

Dictionary Definition

gully n : deep ditch cut by running water (especially after a prolonged downpour) [also: gullied]

User Contributed Dictionary



Etymology 1

From French goulet.


  1. A narrow channel worn away by the flow of water, especially on a hillside.
  2. (United Kingdom) A drop kerb
  3. A road drain
  4. A fielding position on the off side about 30 degrees behind square, between the slips and point; a fielder in such a position

Alternative spellings

Etymology 2

Scots gully, of unknown origin.


  1. italbrac Scotland and northern UK A large knife.



Origin unknown.


sco-noun gullies
  1. large knife
    God than he lewch and owre the dyk lap, / And owt of his scheith his gully owtgatt. (The Bannatyne Manuscript)

Extensive Definition

This article refers to the landform. For other uses, see Gully (disambiguation).
A gully is a landform created by running water eroding sharply into soil, typically on a hillside. Gullies resemble large ditches or small valleys, but are metres to tens of metres in depth and width. When the gully formation is in process, the water flow rate can be substantial, which causes the significant deep cutting action into soil.
Gullying, or gully erosion, is the process by which gullies are formed. Hillsides are more prone to gullying when they are cleared of vegetation, through deforestation, over-grazing or other means. The eroded soil is easily carried by the flowing water after being dislodged from the ground, normally when rainfall falls during short, intense storms such as during thunderstorms. Gullies reduce the productivity of farmland where they incise into the land, and produce sediment that may clog downstream waterbodies. Because of this, much effort is invested into the study of gullies within the scope of geomorphology, in the prevention of gully erosion, and in restoration of gullied landscapes. The total soil loss from gully formation and subsequent downstream river sedimentation can be sizable.

Hydraulic mining

Artificial gullies are formed during hydraulic mining when jets or steams of water are projected onto soft alluvial deposits to extract gold or tin ore. The remains of such mining methods are very visible landform features in old goldfields such as in California and northern Spain. The badlands at Las Medulas for example, were created during the Roman period by hushing or hydraulic mining of the the gold-rich alluvium with water supplied by numerous aqueducts tapping nearby rivers. Each aqueduct produced large gullies below by erosion of the soft deposits. The effluvium was carefully washed with smaller streams of water to extract the nuggets and gold dust.


The earliest usage of the term is from 1657. It originates from the French word goulet, a diminutive form of goule which means throat. It is possible that the term was derived from a type of knife at the time, a gully-knife, because hills that have gullies look as if they are cut open with a sharp knife.


  • Oxford English Dictionary
gully in Catalan: Barranc
gully in Chuvash: Çырма
gully in Spanish: Barranco (geografía)
gully in French: Ravine
gully in Hebrew: ערוץ
gully in Japanese: ガリ (地形)
gully in Polish: wąwóz
gully in Russian: Овраг

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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