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wind·​lass ˈwin(d)-ləs How to pronounce windlass (audio)
: any of various machines for hoisting or hauling: such as
: a horizontal barrel supported on vertical posts and turned by a crank so that the hoisting rope is wound around the barrel
: a steam or electric winch with horizontal or vertical shaft and two drums used to raise a ship's anchor


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windlassed; windlassing; windlasses

transitive verb

: to hoist or haul with a windlass

Examples of windlass in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Fire up that windlass and reel it in. Ezra Dyer, Car and Driver, 27 Mar. 2021 The captain engaged in evasive maneuvers after problems arose with the ship’s windlass, a part of the boat that helps operate the anchor, Bolinski said. Jake Sheridan, Chicago Tribune, 17 Aug. 2022 Artifacts found in the mine include shoes, clay pipes and a windlass—a type of winchthat would have been used to lift heavy objects. Jane Recker, Smithsonian Magazine, 15 July 2022 Coghlan added that one of the items left behind was a windlass lifting device, which would normally have been taken away for reuse in other mines. Sana Noor Haq, CNN, 12 July 2022 This allows the leg to extend behind the body and activates the windlass mechanism in which the hallux pulls on the plantar fascia, creating tension. Outside Online, 5 Aug. 2019 It's called a windlass, and it's used to raise the anchors. Ezra Dyer, Car and Driver, 27 Mar. 2021 No lives were lost, and parts of the ship from several timbers to the anchor-hoisting windlass remain preserved under the Great Lake. Theresa MacHemer, Smithsonian Magazine, 16 June 2020 According to the museum, a large wooden windlass - a type of winch - that staff from Ludington State Park found a few years ago may also be from the same wreck. CBS News, 4 May 2020 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'windlass.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English wyneles, wyndlas, alteration of wyndase, from Old French guindas, windas, from Old Norse vindāss, from vinda to wind (akin to Old High German wintan to wind) + āss pole; akin to Goth ans beam

First Known Use


13th century, in the meaning defined above


1834, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of windlass was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near windlass

Cite this Entry

“Windlass.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


: a winch used especially on ships for pulling and lifting

More from Merriam-Webster on windlass

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