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[wind-luh s] /ˈwɪnd ləs/
a device for raising or hauling objects, usually consisting of a horizontal cylinder or barrel turned by a crank, lever, motor, or the like, upon which a cable, rope, or chain winds, the outer end of the cable being attached directly or indirectly to the weight to be raised or the thing to be hauled or pulled; winch.
verb (used with object)
to raise, haul, or move (a load) by means of a windlass.
Origin of windlass
1350-1400; Middle English wind(e)las < Old Norse vindāss, equivalent to vinda to wind2 + āss beam Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for windlass
Historical Examples
  • We determined, at length, to bring the black to his senses, and I had him seized to the windlass.

    Ned Myers James Fenimore Cooper
  • For bending the sides a "Spanish windlass" of rope or chain was used.

  • Some rest upon their sledges here, some work the windlass there.

  • He always was stubborn as an off ox and cranky as a windlass.

    The Depot Master Joseph C. Lincoln
  • Into these they drove steel posts and anchored the windlass.

    Loot of the Void Edwin K. Sloat
  • One end of the cable was attached to the windlass and the other to the nose of the ship.

    Loot of the Void Edwin K. Sloat
  • I ordered the windlass manned, the sails loosed, and the topsails set.

    The Shadow-Line Joseph Conrad
  • After a brief pause it was rapidly wound in on the barrel of the windlass.

    Bloom of Cactus Robert Ames Bennet
  • She half dropped her candlestick on the stone floor and sprang to the windlass.

    Bloom of Cactus Robert Ames Bennet
  • Convinced against his will, Lennon began to wind in on the windlass.

    Bloom of Cactus Robert Ames Bennet
British Dictionary definitions for windlass


a machine for raising weights by winding a rope or chain upon a barrel or drum driven by a crank, motor, etc
(transitive) to raise or haul (a weight, etc) by means of a windlass
Word Origin
C14: from Old Norse vindáss, from vinda to wind² + ass pole; related to Old French guindas, Middle Low German, Dutch windas
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 windlass

device for raising weights by winding a rope round a cylinder, c.1400, alteration of wyndase (late 13c.), from Anglo-French windas, and directly from a Scandinavian source such as Old Norse vindass, from vinda "to wind" (see wind (v.1)) + ass "pole, beam."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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