• synonyms


  1. a pivoted bar adapted to engage with the teeth of a ratchet wheel or the like so as to prevent movement or to impart motion.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to check or hold with a pawl.
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Origin of pawl

First recorded in 1620–30, pawl is from the Dutch word pal ratchet
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for pawl

Historical Examples of pawl

  • The ratchet wheel and pawl shown in fig. 48 are part of the lubricator.

    Gas and Oil Engines, Simply Explained

    Walter C. Runciman

  • As the wheel turns this arm will move as a pawl does on a ratchet.

  • A pawl or tongue one end of which engages in notches in a rack or wheel.

  • An' this ratchet-wheel isn't on the pawl prop'ly—not like what this book says it ought to be.

    More William

    Richmal Crompton

  • With a monkey-wrench he removed the two big wheels of the lawn-mower and reversed the pawl in the cogs.

British Dictionary definitions for pawl


  1. a pivoted lever shaped to engage with a ratchet wheel to prevent motion in a particular direction
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Word Origin for pawl

C17: perhaps from Dutch pal pawl
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 pawl


"bar preventing a capstan from recoiling" (nautical) 1620s, of unknown origin; perhaps from French pal "stake" [OED] or épaule "shoulder" [Klein].

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper