[bahr-bi-kuh n]


an outwork of a fortified place, as a castle.
a defensive outpost of any sort.

Also barbacan.

Origin of barbican

1250–1300; Middle English barbecan, barbican < Old French barbacane or Medieval Latin barbacana, perhaps ≪ Persian bālāḥāna terrace over a roof, upper floor, altered by association with Latin barba beard, a beard marking the front or face of a thing Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for barbican

landmark, observatory, beacon, lighthouse, barbican, mirador

Examples from the Web for barbican

Contemporary Examples of barbican

  • We started making them for a retrospective nine years ago that we were invited to in London at the Barbican art gallery.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Inside Viktor & Rolf’s Dollhouse

    Isabel Wilkinson

    June 10, 2013

Historical Examples of barbican

  • They had crossed Smithfield together, and Clennam was left alone at the corner of Barbican.

    Little Dorrit

    Charles Dickens

  • Lunch over, he lit a cigar, and strolled in the direction of the Barbican.

    Shining Ferry

    Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch

  • I will be off the landing-place at the Barbican with a boat.

    The Ocean Cat's Paw

    George Manville Fenn

  • The barbican was named Bevis's Tower from this legendary story.

  • Some remains of the old Barbican were to be seen here in the last century.

    Bygone London

    Frederick Ross

British Dictionary definitions for barbican



a walled outwork or tower to protect a gate or drawbridge of a fortification
a watchtower projecting from a fortification

Word Origin for barbican

C13: from Old French barbacane, from Medieval Latin barbacana, of unknown origin



the Barbican a building complex in the City of London: includes residential developments and the Barbican Arts Centre (completed 1982) housing concert and exhibition halls, theatres, cinemas, etc
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 barbican

"outer fortification of a city or castle," mid-13c., from Old French barbacane (12c.), a general Romanic word, perhaps ultimately from Arabic or Persian (cf. bab-khanah "gate-house").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper