See more synonyms for spool on Thesaurus.com
  1. any cylindrical piece or device on which something is wound.
  2. a small cylindrical piece of wood or other material on which yarn is wound in spinning, for use in weaving; a bobbin.
  3. a small cylinder of wood or other material on which thread, wire, or tape is wound, typically expanded or with a rim at each end and having a hole lengthwise through the center.
  4. the material or quantity of material wound on such a device.
  5. Angling. the cylindrical drum in a reel that bears the line.
verb (used with object)
  1. to wind on a spool.
  2. to unwind from a spool (usually followed by off or out).
  3. Computers. to operate (an input/output device) by using buffers in main and secondary storage.
verb (used without object)
  1. to wind.
  2. to unwind.

Origin of spool

1275–1325; Middle English spole < Middle Dutch spoele or Middle Low German spōle; cognate with German Spule
Related formsspool·er, nounspool·like, adjectiveun·spool, verb (used with object)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for spool

cylinder, spindle, bobbin

Examples from the Web for spool

Contemporary Examples of spool

Historical Examples of spool

  • A searchlight was on a tripod at the center, and a spool of electric cable.

    Two Thousand Miles Below

    Charles Willard Diffin

  • Guide it to its place with the thumb, and run it from side to side of the reel like cotton on a spool.

    Black Bass

    Charles Barker Bradford

  • Oh, look at the kitten chasing the spool, all in electric lights!

    Blue-grass and Broadway

    Maria Thompson Daviess

  • Pass the string through the handle of the pail and up over the spool (Fig. 33).

    Common Science

    Carleton W. Washburne

  • Put a spool over the nail which was your fulcrum in the first two experiments.

    Common Science

    Carleton W. Washburne

British Dictionary definitions for spool


  1. a device around which magnetic tape, film, cotton, etc, can be automatically wound, with plates at top and bottom to prevent it from slipping off
  2. anything round which other materials, esp thread, are wound
  1. (sometimes foll by up) to wind or be wound onto a spool or reel

Word Origin for spool

C14: of Germanic origin; compare Old High German spuolo, Middle Dutch spoele
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 spool

early 14c., from Old North French spole, espole "a spool" (13c.), from Middle Dutch spoele "a spool," from Proto-Germanic *spolon (cf. Norwegian and Swedish spole, Old High German spuola, German Spule), from PIE root *spel- "to cleave, split" (see spoil).


c.1600, from spool (n.). Related: Spooled; spooling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

spool in Science


  1. To store data that is sent to a device, such as a printer, in a buffer that the device reads. This procedure allows the program that sent the data to the device to resume its normal operation without waiting for the device to process the data.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.