Definition of barbican
: an outer defensive work; especially : a tower at a gate or bridge
Did You Know?
You’ve heard of moats and drawbridges, but "barbicans" may be unfamiliar. Those stone outerworks stood in front of the gate of a castle or bridge and helped prevent invaders from gaining access to the main entryway. Up to a point, the case for the history of the word barbican is well fortified. It is clear that English speakers seized the term from the Anglo-French barbecane, which in turn had been taken from the Medieval Latin barbacana (both of those words had the same meaning as the modern word). The etymological path crumbles from there, however. Some speculate that the ultimate ancestor of "barbican" might lie in a Persian phrase meaning "house on the wall," but that speculation has never been proven.
Origin of barbican
Middle English, from Anglo-French barbecane, from Medieval Latin barbacana
First Known Use: 13th century
Learn More about barbican
Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about "barbican"
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up barbican? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).