der·​rick | \ˈder-ik, ˈde-rik\

Definition of derrick 

1 : a hoisting apparatus employing a tackle rigged at the end of a beam

2 : a framework or tower over a deep drill hole (as of an oil well) for supporting boring tackle or for hoisting and lowering

Illustration of derrick

Illustration of derrick

derrick 2

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Did You Know?

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, London was the home of a notorious executioner named Derick. Among those he beheaded was the Earl of Essex, Robert Devereux, who according to a street ballad of the time had once saved the life of the ungrateful executioner. While members of the nobility were accorded the courtesy of beheading, it was the lot of commoners to be hanged, and those sent to face the rope at the hands of the executioner Derick nicknamed the gallows at Tyburn after him. Throughout the 17th century, "derick" was used as a name for both hangman and gallows. After the days of public hangings, the word derrick was adopted as a name for a number of less ominous frameworks or towers.

Examples of derrick in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Signal Hill was soon covered by a thicket of wooden oil derricks so dense that locals began referring to it as Porcupine Hill. Scott Garner,, "Neighborhood Spotlight: Signal Hill keeps progress in view without blocking out its oil town past," 22 June 2018 Today, County Road 49 is so crowded with oil derricks and tanks that some residents call it the Frack Freeway. Julie Turkewitz, New York Times, "24 Oil Wells in a School’s Backyard. How Close Is Too Close?," 31 May 2018 There is a reason why the derricks, pipe and drill bits used today bear a strong resemblance to the basic mechanics of Spindletop 117 years ago: the price of oil can only command so much investment in technology and still make a healthy return. Houston Chronicle, "What does future hold for the offshore sector?," 4 May 2018 What remains is a ghost town with a 19th-century residence, schoolhouse, derrick, and barn. Los Angeles Magazine, "A Brief Tour of L.A.’s Secret Ruins," 22 Feb. 2018 Indian burial grounds, oil derricks and the city’s sordid, riotous history all come up. Benjamin Oreskes,, "Many people work hard to avoid the homeless. These volunteers embrace them," 7 June 2018 The heat from the fire caused the derrick to collapse, which spread the flames across the site. CBS News, "5 missing after drilling rig explosion in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma," 22 Jan. 2018 Nearly a half-hour drive north of downtown Oklahoma City, surrounded by oil derricks and vast expanses of grass, sat the first practice facility of the state’s only major sports franchise. Connor Letourneau, San Francisco Chronicle, "‘War on the practice court’ shaped Kevin Durant, James Harden into MVPs," 12 May 2018 Who didn’t know a balabusta aunt or a neighbor who shared outward traits: a sofa-size bosom, no waistline, improbably blond curls, a voice—loud, genderless, booming—that could stop an oil derrick in mid plunge. Gary Giddins, WSJ, "‘Red Hot Mama’ Review: ‘They’ve All Cooled Down but Me’," 12 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'derrick.' 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 derrick

circa 1752, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for derrick

obsolete derrick hangman, gallows, from Derick, name of 17th century English hangman

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The first known use of derrick was circa 1752

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English Language Learners Definition of derrick

: a tall machine with a long part like an arm that is used to move or lift heavy things especially on ships

: a tall tower that is built over an oil well and used to support and guide the tool that is used to dig the hole and get oil out of the ground


der·​rick | \ˈder-ik \

Kids Definition of derrick

1 : a machine for moving or lifting heavy weights by means of a long arm fitted with ropes and pulleys

2 : a framework or tower over an oil well used to support machinery

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a private place of worship

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