bal·​lis·​ta | \ bə-ˈli-stə How to pronounce ballista (audio) \
plural ballistae\ bə-​ˈli-​ˌstē How to pronounce ballistae (audio) \

Definition of ballista

: an ancient military engine often in the form of a crossbow for hurling large missiles

Examples of ballista in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Even when her dragon yaws, pitches, and rolls after being hit by an arrow shot from Qyburn's ballista, the dainty dragon queen hangs tough in the face of the forces of physics trying to pry her loose. William Gurstelle, Popular Mechanics, "'Game of Thrones' Science: Could a Person Ride a Dragon?," 15 Apr. 2019 Nixey delivers this ballista-bolt of a book with her eyes wide open and in an attempt to bring light as well as heat to the sad story of intellectual monoculture and religious intolerance. Bettany Hughes, New York Times, "How Christians Destroyed the Ancient World," 8 June 2018 Other artifacts were discovered during the dig as well, including ballista bolts, brooches, arrowheads, leather shoes, knives, bath clogs, writing tablets and pen and cavalry lances. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Rare Roman Cavalry Swords And Toys Unearthed Along Hadrian’s Wall," 14 Sep. 2017 This kind of ballista dates back to 399 BCE, when King Dionysius of Syracuse besieged a walled town called Motya located on the island of Sicily. William Gurstelle, Popular Mechanics, "The Real History of the Ballista, Game of Thrones' New Dragon-Killing Weapon," 28 July 2017 These miniature plastic or metal ballistas can fire a toothpick with enough force to pierce cardboard or — if loaded up with metal needles instead of wooden skewers — a soda can, the BBC reports. Joseph Hincks, Time, "Step Aside, Fidget Spinner. China's 'Toothpick Crossbow' Is the Ultimate Taboo Toy," 22 June 2017 Nahshon Szanton and Moran Hagbi, the directors of the excavation, said the ballista balls were used by the Romans to bombard Jerusalem during the battle. Chris Ciaccia, Fox News, "2,000-year-old battle relics provide evidence of the last battle of Jerusalem," 25 May 2017 The excavations revealed more than 400 Roman sling bullets right where the metal detectors indicated, as well as two spherical sandstone missiles known as ballista balls. John Reid, National Geographic, "Ancient Slingshot Was as Deadly as a .44 Magnum," 24 May 2017 That’s about twice the speed of the black arrow shot from the ballista. Rhett Allain, WIRED, "Could the Black Arrow Actually Kill a Dragon?," 12 Nov. 2014

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ballista.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ballista

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ballista

Latin, from Greek *ballistēs, from ballein to throw — more at devil

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Last Updated

8 May 2019

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Time Traveler for ballista

The first known use of ballista was in the 14th century

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ballista Encyclopedia article about ballista

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something valued as if it were money

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