A gunwale is the very top edge of a boat's side. You might rest your paddle on your canoe's gunwale while you take a break in the middle of a pond.

Nearly all boats have a gunwale, from the reinforced strip around the edge of a canoe to a narrow canal boat's wider gunwale that allows people to walk around the center cabin. Originally, this edge was called a "gun ridge," a band strong enough to support the weapons that were used on a war ship. A wale in this context is a "plank," from the Old English walu, "ridge."

Definitions of gunwale
  1. noun
    wale at the top of the side of boat; topmost planking of a wooden vessel
    synonyms: gun rest, gunnel
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    type of:
    strake, wale
    thick plank forming a ridge along the side of a wooden ship
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