• synonyms


  1. an old form of gunlock in which the priming was ignited by a slow match.
  2. a hand gun, usually a musket, with such a lock.
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Origin of matchlock

First recorded in 1630–40; match1 + lock1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for matchlock

Historical Examples

  • We are as much bygones as the old flint musket or the matchlock.


    Charles James Lever

  • A huge Chinaman stood there, pointing his matchlock at Jack.

    The Three Midshipmen

    W.H.G. Kingston

  • They were at first furnished with a matchlock, and fired by a match.

  • Yossouf needed no preparations, beyond borrowing a matchlock.

  • “We can sell our lives dearly, at least,” said Avery, looking to his matchlock.

    Robin Tremayne

    Emily Sarah Holt

British Dictionary definitions for matchlock


  1. an obsolete type of gunlock igniting the powder by means of a slow match
  2. a gun having such a lock
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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 matchlock


1690s, from match (n.1), in reference to the firing mechanism, + lock (n.1) in the firearm sense (1540s); probably so called for its resemblance to a door-latching device.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper