[pawrt-kuhl-is, pohrt-]


(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.

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

Historical Examples of portcullis

  • When Corkran got to his portcullis, he thought he'd reached the reward of his labours.

    It Happened in Egypt

    C. N. Williamson

  • Bid the varlets lower the draw-bridge and raise the portcullis.

    The Nebuly Coat

    John Meade Falkner

  • Turning, they wished to flee into the castle and pull down the portcullis.

  • Edouard felt as it were a portcullis of ice come down between her and him.

    White Lies

    Charles Reade

  • This suggests colander, which, like portcullis, belongs to Lat.

British Dictionary definitions for portcullis



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