See more synonyms for tilt on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object)
  1. to cause to lean, incline, slope, or slant.
  2. to rush at or charge, as in a joust.
  3. to hold poised for attack, as a lance.
  4. to move (a camera) up or down on its vertical axis for photographing or televising a moving character, object, or the like.
verb (used without object)
  1. to move into or assume a sloping position or direction.
  2. to strike, thrust, or charge with a lance or the like (usually followed by at).
  3. to engage in a joust, tournament, or similar contest.
  4. (of a camera) to move on its vertical axis: The camera tilts downward for an overhead shot.
  5. to incline in opinion, feeling, etc.; lean: She's tilting toward the other candidate this year.
  1. an act or instance of tilting.
  2. the state of being tilted; a sloping position.
  3. a slope.
  4. a joust or any other contest.
  5. a dispute; controversy.
  6. a thrust of a weapon, as at a tilt or joust.
  7. (in aerial photography) the angle formed by the direction of aim of a camera and a perpendicular to the surface of the earth.
  1. (at) full tilt. full tilt.
  2. tilt at windmills, to contend against imaginary opponents or injustices.Also fight with windmills.

Origin of tilt

1300–50; Middle English tylten to upset, tumble < Scandinavian; compare dialectal Norwegian tylta to tiptoe, tylten unsteady; akin to Old English tealt unsteady, tealtian to totter, amble, Middle Dutch touteren to sway
Related formstilt·a·ble, adjectivetilt·er, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for tilt at windmills


  1. to incline or cause to incline at an angle
  2. (usually intr) to attack or overthrow (a person or people) in a tilt or joust
  3. (when intr, often foll by at) to aim or thrustto tilt a lance
  4. (tr) to work or forge with a tilt hammer
  1. a slope or angleat a tilt
  2. the act of tilting
  3. (esp in medieval Europe)
    1. a jousting contest
    2. a thrust with a lance or pole delivered during a tournament
  4. an attempt to win a contest
  5. See tilt hammer
  6. full tilt or at full tilt at full speed or force
Derived Formstilter, noun

Word Origin for tilt

Old English tealtian; related to Dutch touteren to totter, Norwegian tylta to tiptoe, tylten unsteady


  1. an awning or canopy, usually of canvas, for a boat, booth, etc
  1. (tr) to cover or provide with a tilt

Word Origin for tilt

Old English teld; related to Old High German zelt tent, Old Norse tjald tent
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 tilt at windmills



Old English *tyltan "to be unsteady," from tealt "unsteady," from Proto-Germanic *taltaz (cf. Old Norse tyllast "to trip," Swedish tulta "to waddle," Norwegian tylta "to walk on tip-toe," Middle Dutch touteren "to swing"). Meaning "to cause to lean, tip, slope" (1590s) is from sense of "push or fall over." Intransitive sense first recorded 1620s. Related: Tilted; tilting.



"a joust, a combat," 1510s, perhaps from tilt (v.) on the notion of "to lean" into an attack, but the word originally seems to have been the name of the barrier which separated the combatants, which suggests connection with tilt in an earlier meaning "covering of coarse cloth, an awning" (mid-15c.), which is probably from tilt (v.), but perhaps related to or influenced by tent, or it may be from a Germanic source akin to Old English beteldan "to cover." The verb is recorded from 1590s. Hence, also full tilt (c.1600).



"condition of being tilted," 1837, from tilt (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with tilt at windmills

tilt at windmills

Engage in conflict with an imagined opponent, pursue a vain goal, as in Trying to reform campaign financing in this legislature is tilting at windmills. This metaphoric expression alludes to the hero of Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote (1605), who rides with his lance at full tilt (poised to strike) against a row of windmills, which he mistakes for evil giants.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.