wind·​lass | \ ˈwin(d)-ləs How to pronounce windlass (audio) \

Definition of windlass

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: any of various machines for hoisting or hauling: such as
a : a horizontal barrel supported on vertical posts and turned by a crank so that the hoisting rope is wound around the barrel
b : a steam or electric winch with horizontal or vertical shaft and two drums used to raise a ship's anchor


windlassed; windlassing; windlasses

Definition of windlass (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to hoist or haul with a windlass

Examples of windlass in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Most tourniquets are called windlass-style tourniquets. Kevin Dupzyk, Popular Mechanics, "A Former Green Beret Rethinks the Standard-Issue Tourniquet," 16 Apr. 2019 Cranes, windlasses and capstans (ancient water-raising devices based on a kind of swinging, see-saw design) may well have inspired the use of counterweights in early elevators and hoists. Adrienne Bernhard, Smithsonian, "Elevators Are Going Green," 27 Apr. 2018 The whole system is a combination of an anchor specifically designed to dig into the seabed, an enormous chain to keep it attached to the boat, and a windlass, the giant machine that lowers and raises an anchor by that chain. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "How Mega-Ships Drop Their Giant Anchors," 15 Aug. 2017

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


13th century, in the meaning defined above


1834, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for windlass


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

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Time Traveler for windlass

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

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with windlass

Spanish Central: Translation of windlass

Nglish: Translation of windlass for Spanish Speakers

Comments on windlass

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to complain fretfully

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