[ pawrt-kuhl-is, pohrt- ]
/ pɔrtˈkʌl ɪs, poʊrt- /


(especially in medieval castles) a strong grating, as of iron, made to slide along vertical grooves at the sides of a gateway of a fortified place and let down to prevent passage.

Nearby words

  1. portal-to-portal pay,
  2. portamento,
  3. portance,
  4. portative,
  5. portative organ,
  6. porte,
  7. porte-cochere,
  8. portend,
  9. portent,
  10. portentous

Origin of portcullis

1300–50; Middle English portecolys < Middle French porte coleice, equivalent to porte port4 + coleice, feminine of coleis flowing, sliding < Vulgar Latin *cōlātīcius; see coulee, -itious

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for portcullis

British Dictionary definitions for portcullis


/ (pɔːtˈkʌlɪs) /


an iron or wooden grating suspended vertically in grooves in the gateway of a castle or fortified town and able to be lowered so as to bar the entrance

Word Origin for portcullis

C14 port colice, from Old French porte coleïce sliding gate, from porte door, entrance + coleïce, from couler to slide, flow, from Late Latin cōlāre to filter

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 portcullis



also port-cullis, c.1300, from Old French porte coleice "sliding gate" (c.1200, Modern French porte à coulisse), from porte "gate" (see port (n.2)) + coleice "sliding, flowing," fem. of coleis, from Latin colatus, past participle of colare "to filter, strain" (see colander).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper