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: a structure that has parts which are turned around by the wind and that is used to produce power, pump water, etc.
Full Definition of WINDMILL
a: a mill or machine operated by the wind usually acting on oblique vanes or sails that radiate from a horizontal shaft; especially: a wind-driven water pump or electric generator
b: the wind-driven wheel of a windmill
: something that resembles or suggests a windmill; especially: a calisthenic exercise that involves alternately lowering each outstretched hand to touch the toes of the opposite foot
[from the episode in Don Quixote by Cervantes in which the hero attacks windmills under the illusion that they are giants]: an imaginary wrong, evil, or opponent —usually used in the phrase to tilt at windmills
: to move like a windmill; especially: to spin from the force of wind
First Known Use of WINDMILL
Machine for harnessing the energy of the wind using sails mounted on a rotating shaft. The sails are mounted at an angle or are given a slight twist, so that the force of wind against them has two components, one of which, in the plane of the sails, causes rotation. Like waterwheels, windmills were among the original prime movers that replaced human beings as a source of power. Their most important traditional use was for grinding grain, though in certain areas their use in land drainage and water pumping was equally important. Windmill use became increasingly widespread in Europe (particularly the Netherlands) from the 12th century to the early 19th century, but thereafter slowly declined. Interest in windmills for generating electric power revived in the 1970s. See alsowind power.