A broad flat-bottomed boat, a punt.
Early 19th century (in an earlier sense). Origin uncertain. Perhaps a transferred use of balao (attested 1795 as ballahoo; compare discussion below), perhaps immediately after or via Spanish balahú, balajú small ship used in the Bay of Biscay, type of schooner common in the Antilles (although this is apparently not attested until later: 1831 or earlier), itself probably a transferred use of the fish name baláou, perhaps with allusion to the vessel's shape, speed, or lively movement in the water. Compare French balaou a kind of schooner used in the Caribbean beside balaou as a fish name.