noun \ˈkap-stən, -ˌstan\

: a machine that turns so that rope or a cable can wind around it and move or lift heavy weights (such as a ship's anchor)

Full Definition of CAPSTAN

:  a machine for moving or raising heavy weights that consists of a vertical drum which can be rotated and around which cable is turned
:  a rotating shaft that drives tape at a constant speed in a recorder

Origin of CAPSTAN

Middle English, probably from Middle French cabestant
First Known Use: 14th century


noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

Mechanical device used chiefly on board ships or in shipyards for moving heavy weights by means of ropes, cables, or chains. A capstan consists of a drum, driven either manually or by steam or electricity, that rotates about a vertical axis to wind in a line wrapped around it. The grip between the line and the drum depends on friction and on the number of times the line is wrapped around the drum. A notched track (ratchet) on the base plate and pawls attached to the drum prevent backward rotation.


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