noun der·rick \ˈder-ik, ˈde-rik\

Definition of derrick

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

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

derrick was our Word of the Day on 05/15/2010. Hear the podcast!

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.

Illustration of derrick

Origin and Etymology of derrick

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

First Known Use: circa 1752

DERRICK Defined for English Language Learners


noun der·rick \ˈder-ik, ˈde-rik\

Definition of derrick for English Language Learners

  • : 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

DERRICK Defined for Kids


noun der·rick \ˈder-ik\

Definition of derrick for Students

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

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

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