Mechanism for forcefully propelling stones, spears, or other projectiles, in use since ancient times. Nearly all catapults employed in ancient and medieval artillery operated by a sudden release of tension on wooden beams or twisted cords of horsehair, gut, sinew, or other fibres. An exception was the medieval trebuchet, powered by a counterweight. Modern mechanisms using steam, hydraulic pressure, tension, or other force to launch gliders, aircraft, or missiles are also called catapults.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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