Word of the Day : January 26, 2017


noun BAR-bih-kun


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

Did You Know?

You've heard of moats and drawbridges, but barbicans may be unfamiliar. Those stone outworks stand in front of the gate of a castle or bridge and historically 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.


"He heard the voices of the sentries in the barbican as they conversed with the newcomers." — Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Mad King, 1926

"The result is an honest-to-goodness fairy-tale castle that sits perched on a hilltop, guarding against invaders high above Malibu's coastline. There are turrets, barbicans and winding stone steps that lead to circular rooms." — Ann Brenoff, The Los Angeles Times, 18 Feb. 2007

Test Your Vocabulary

Unscramble the letters to create a word for a small enclosed defensive work: BEORUTD.



More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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