[ba-steel; French bas-tee-yuh]
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noun, plural bas·tilles [ba-steelz; French bas-tee-yuh] /bæˈstilz; French basˈti yə/.
  1. (initial capital letter) a fortress in Paris, used as a prison, built in the 14th century and destroyed July 14, 1789.
  2. any prison or jail, especially one conducted in a tyrannical way.
  3. a fortified tower, as of a castle; a small fortress; citadel.
Also bas·tile [ba-steel] /bæˈstil/.

Origin of bastille

1350–1400; Middle English bastile < Middle French, probably alteration of bastide bastide, with -ile (< Medieval Latin, Latin -īle noun suffix of place) replacing -ide; replacing Middle English bastel < Old French basstel, with -el similarly replacing -ide Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for bastille


  1. a fortress in Paris, built in the 14th century: a prison until its destruction in 1789, at the beginning of the French Revolution

Word Origin for Bastille

C14: from Old French bastile fortress, from Old Provençal bastida, from bastir to build, of Germanic origin; see baste 1
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 bastille



14c. Paris prison destroyed by revolutionaries on July 14, 1789, French, literally "fortress, tower" (see bastion).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

bastille in Culture



A prison in Paris where many political and other offenders were held and tortured until the time of the French Revolution. It was attacked by workers on July 14, 1789, during the revolution; the prisoners were released, and the building was later demolished.


The anniversary of the attack, Bastille Day, is the most important national holiday in France.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.