• synonyms


noun, plural bal·lis·tae [buh-lis-tee] /bəˈlɪs ti/.
  1. an ancient military engine for throwing stones or other missiles.
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Origin of ballista

1590–1600; < Latin, probably < Greek *ballistā́s, dialectal variant of *ballistḗs, equivalent to báll(ein) to throw + -istēs -ist
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for ballistae

pistol, bomb, sword, gun, missile, cannon, rifle, machete, ammunition, firearm, knife, shotgun, revolver, slingshot, catapult, dagger, spear, bayonet, ax, bludgeon

Examples from the Web for ballistae

Historical Examples of ballistae

  • In this way the blows of ballistae and the force of fires will be repelled by them.

    Ten Books on Architecture


  • But Belisarius placed upon the towers engines which they call "ballistae."



  • I have now given those symmetrical proportions of ballistae and catapults which I thought most useful.

  • They are usually classed as (a) catapults and (b) ballistae (λιθοβόλοι).

  • Their ballistae threw stones, weighing a hundred weight, a distance of a quarter of a mile.

    For the Temple

    G. A. Henty

British Dictionary definitions for ballistae


noun plural -tae (-tiː)
  1. an ancient catapult for hurling stones, etc
  2. an ancient form of large crossbow used to propel a spear
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Word Origin for ballista

C16: from Latin, ultimately from Greek ballein to throw
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

Word Origin and History for ballistae



ancient war engine, late 14c., from Latin ballista, literally "a throwing machine," from Greek ballein "to throw" (see ballistics).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper