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[bin-uh-kuh l] /ˈbɪn ə kəl/
noun, Nautical.
a stand or enclosure of wood or nonmagnetic metal for supporting and housing a compass.
Origin of binnacle1
late Middle English
1615-25; bin + (bitt)acle (late Middle English bitakille) < Portuguese bitacola < Latin habitāculum lodge, equivalent to habitā- (see inhabit) + -culum -cule2


[bin-uh-kuh l] /ˈbɪn ə kəl/
New York State Older Use.
a side branch of a river; millrace.
1855-60, Americanism; probably folk-etymological spelling of New York Dutch *binnekil, equivalent to Dutch binne(n) inner, interior (see ben1) + kil channel; see kill2 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for binnacle
Historical Examples
  • At last he turned onto the bridge and moved toward the binnacle light.

    The Cruise of the Dry Dock T. S. Stribling
  • The man at the wheel was looking down into the binnacle and Sears took her hand.

    Fair Harbor

    Joseph Crosby Lincoln
  • The coat was hanging from the nail, within six inches of the binnacle.

    End of the Tether Joseph Conrad
  • "Throw the cover over the binnacle," said Lingard in his duty voice.

    The Rescue Joseph Conrad
  • He put his head under his wing where he sat on the binnacle.

    The Magic City Edith Nesbit
  • He led the way to the chart on the shelf, upon which a light was cast from the binnacle.

    Up the River Oliver Optic
  • The captain opened the binnacle, and headed the Blanchita to the north.

    Four Young Explorers Oliver Optic
  • With one consent we both walked aft to the binnacle and peered into it.

    A Middy of the King Harry Collingwood
  • It was dark there except for the soft, yellow gleam of the binnacle lights.

    Blow The Man Down Holman Day
  • If it be in the binnacle, in course the ship as carries it must be stern towards us.

    The Ocean Waifs Mayne Reid
British Dictionary definitions for binnacle


a housing for a ship's compass
Word Origin
C17: changed from C15 bitakle, from Portuguese bitácula, from Late Latin habitāculum dwelling-place, from Latin habitāre to inhabit; spelling influenced by bin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for binnacle

"wooden box for a ship's compass," c.1750, corruption of bittacle (1620s), which is probably from Spanish bitacula or Portuguese bitacola, both from Latin habitaculum "little dwelling place," from habitare "to inhabit" (see habit).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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