[poo l-ee]

noun, plural pul·leys.

a wheel, with a grooved rim for carrying a line, that turns in a frame or block and serves to change the direction of or to transmit force, as when one end of the line is pulled to raise a weight at the other end: one of the simple machines.
a combination of such wheels in a block, or of such wheels or blocks in a tackle, to increase the force applied.
a wheel driven by or driving a belt or the like, used to deliver force to a machine, another belt, etc., at a certain speed and torque.

Origin of pulley

1275–1325; Middle English poley, puly < Middle French polieMedieval Greek *polídion little pivot, equivalent to pól(os) pole2 + -idion diminutive suffix
Related formspul·ley·less, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for pulley

wheel, ring, block, sheave

Examples from the Web for pulley

Contemporary Examples of pulley

Historical Examples of pulley

  • Some of these devices are, the wedge, the screw, the pulley and the inclined plane.

  • In the drawing (A) is the shaft, with a pulley (A), which turns in the direction of the arrow (B).

  • It is drawn up and let down by a cord passing over a pulley.

    The Teacher

    Jacob Abbott

  • A pulley over the vat to draw out the rod or net is convenient.

    Vegetable Dyes

    Ethel M. Mairet

  • The next operation was the reeving of the ropes over the wheels of the pulley.

British Dictionary definitions for pulley



a wheel with a grooved rim in which a rope, chain, or belt can run in order to change the direction or point of application of a force applied to the rope, etc
a number of such wheels pivoted in parallel in a block, used to raise heavy loads
a wheel with a flat, convex, or grooved rim mounted on a shaft and driven by or driving a belt passing around it

Word Origin for pulley

C14 poley, from Old French polie, from Vulgar Latin polidium (unattested), apparently from Late Greek polidion (unattested) a little pole, from Greek polos axis
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 pulley

late 13c., from Old French polie, pulie "pulley, windlass" (12c.) and directly from Medieval Latin poliva, puliva, probably from Medieval Greek *polidia, plural of *polidion "little pivot," diminutive of Greek polos "pivot, axis" (see pole (n.2)). As a verb from 1590s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

pulley in Science



A machine consisting of a wheel over which a pulled rope or chain runs to change the direction of the pull used for lifting a load. Combinations of two or more pulleys working together reduce the force needed to lift a load. See also block and tackle.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.