• synonyms


[bin-uh-kuh l]
noun Nautical.
  1. a stand or enclosure of wood or nonmagnetic metal for supporting and housing a compass.
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Origin of binnacle1

1615–25; bin + (bitt)acle (late Middle English bitakille) < Portuguese bitacola < Latin habitāculum lodge, equivalent to habitā- (see inhabit) + -culum -cule2


[bin-uh-kuh l]
New York State Older Use.
  1. a side branch of a river; millrace.
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Origin of binnacle2

1855–60, Americanism; probably folk-etymological spelling of New York Dutch *binnekil, equivalent to Dutch binne(n) inner, interior (see ben1) + kil channel; see kill2
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for binnacle

Historical Examples

  • At last he turned onto the bridge and moved toward the binnacle light.

    The Cruise of the Dry Dock

    T. S. Stribling

  • The man at the wheel was looking down into the binnacle and Sears took her hand.

    Fair Harbor

    Joseph Crosby Lincoln

  • The coat was hanging from the nail, within six inches of the binnacle.

    End of the Tether

    Joseph Conrad

  • "Throw the cover over the binnacle," said Lingard in his duty voice.

    The Rescue

    Joseph Conrad

  • He put his head under his wing where he sat on the binnacle.

    The Magic City

    Edith Nesbit

British Dictionary definitions for binnacle


  1. a housing for a ship's compass
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Word Origin

C17: changed from C15 bitakle, from Portuguese bitácula, from Late Latin habitāculum dwelling-place, from Latin habitāre to inhabit; spelling influenced by bin
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 binnacle


"wooden box for a ship's compass," c.1750, corruption of bittacle (1620s), which is probably from Spanish bitacula or Portuguese bitacola, both from Latin habitaculum "little dwelling place," from habitare "to inhabit" (see habit).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper