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[poo l-ee] /ˈpʊl i/
noun, plural pulleys.
a wheel, with a grooved rim for carrying a line, that turns in a frame or block and serves to change the direction of or to transmit force, as when one end of the line is pulled to raise a weight at the other end: one of the simple machines.
a combination of such wheels in a block, or of such wheels or blocks in a tackle, to increase the force applied.
a wheel driven by or driving a belt or the like, used to deliver force to a machine, another belt, etc., at a certain speed and torque.
Origin of pulley
1275-1325; Middle English poley, puly < Middle French polieMedieval Greek *polídion little pivot, equivalent to pól(os) pole2 + -idion diminutive suffix
Related forms
pulleyless, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for pulley
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Some of these devices are, the wedge, the screw, the pulley and the inclined plane.

  • In the drawing (A) is the shaft, with a pulley (A), which turns in the direction of the arrow (B).

  • It is drawn up and let down by a cord passing over a pulley.

    The Teacher Jacob Abbott
  • A pulley over the vat to draw out the rod or net is convenient.

    Vegetable Dyes

    Ethel M. Mairet
  • The next operation was the reeving of the ropes over the wheels of the pulley.

    The Plant Hunters Mayne Reid
  • In most cases counter-extension may be best managed by a weight and pulley.

  • The Dear Me was not anchored, but moored to the pier by a pulley and tackle.

    From the Car Behind

    Eleanor M. Ingram
  • Zittelhof was just leavin', havin' got in his pulley things to lower 'em.

    Friendship Village Zona Gale
British Dictionary definitions for pulley


a wheel with a grooved rim in which a rope, chain, or belt can run in order to change the direction or point of application of a force applied to the rope, etc
a number of such wheels pivoted in parallel in a block, used to raise heavy loads
a wheel with a flat, convex, or grooved rim mounted on a shaft and driven by or driving a belt passing around it
Word Origin
C14 poley, from Old French polie, from Vulgar Latin polidium (unattested), apparently from Late Greek polidion (unattested) a little pole, from Greek polos axis
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 pulley

late 13c., from Old French polie, pulie "pulley, windlass" (12c.) and directly from Medieval Latin poliva, puliva, probably from Medieval Greek *polidia, plural of *polidion "little pivot," diminutive of Greek polos "pivot, axis" (see pole (n.2)). As a verb from 1590s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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pulley in Science
A machine consisting of a wheel over which a pulled rope or chain runs to change the direction of the pull used for lifting a load. Combinations of two or more pulleys working together reduce the force needed to lift a load. See also block and tackle.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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