barbican

play
noun bar·bi·can \ˈbär-bi-kən\

Definition of barbican

  1. :  an outer defensive work; especially :  a tower at a gate or bridge

barbican was our Word of the Day on 01/26/2017. Hear the podcast!

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 and Etymology of barbican

Middle English, from Anglo-French barbecane, from Medieval Latin barbacana


First Known Use: 13th century


Learn More 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).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

capable of being altered or controlled

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

  • peter-bruegel-tower-of-babel-painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!