[wind-luh s]


a device for raising or hauling objects, usually consisting of a horizontal cylinder or barrel turned by a crank, lever, motor, or the like, upon which a cable, rope, or chain winds, the outer end of the cable being attached directly or indirectly to the weight to be raised or the thing to be hauled or pulled; winch.

verb (used with object)

to raise, haul, or move (a load) by means of a windlass.

Origin of windlass

1350–1400; Middle English wind(e)las < Old Norse vindāss, equivalent to vinda to wind2 + āss beam Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for windlass

Historical Examples of windlass

  • We determined, at length, to bring the black to his senses, and I had him seized to the windlass.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • For bending the sides a "Spanish windlass" of rope or chain was used.

  • Some rest upon their sledges here, some work the windlass there.

  • He always was stubborn as an off ox and cranky as a windlass.

    The Depot Master

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • Into these they drove steel posts and anchored the windlass.

    Loot of the Void

    Edwin K. Sloat

British Dictionary definitions for windlass



a machine for raising weights by winding a rope or chain upon a barrel or drum driven by a crank, motor, etc


(tr) to raise or haul (a weight, etc) by means of a windlass

Word Origin for windlass

C14: from Old Norse vindáss, from vinda to wind ² + ass pole; related to Old French guindas, Middle Low German, Dutch windas
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 windlass

device for raising weights by winding a rope round a cylinder, c.1400, alteration of wyndase (late 13c.), from Anglo-French windas, and directly from a Scandinavian source such as Old Norse vindass, from vinda "to wind" (see wind (v.1)) + ass "pole, beam."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper