See more synonyms for windmill on
  1. any of various machines for grinding, pumping, etc., driven by the force of the wind acting upon a number of vanes or sails.
  2. (loosely) a wind generator; wind plant.
  3. Aeronautics. a small air turbine with blades, like those of an airplane propeller, exposed on a moving aircraft and driven by the air, used to operate gasoline pumps, radio apparatus, etc.
  4. an imaginary opponent, wrong, etc. (in allusion to Cervantes' Don Quixote): to tilt at windmills.
verb (used with or without object)
  1. Aeronautics. (of a propeller engine or turbojet engine) to rotate or cause to rotate solely under the force of a passing airstream.

Origin of windmill

Middle English word dating back to 1250–1300; see origin at wind1, mill1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for windmill

leaf, blade, draft, propeller, vane, windmill, ventilator, flabellum

Examples from the Web for windmill

Contemporary Examples of windmill

Historical Examples of windmill

  • Not far from his grandmother's residence there was a windmill which operated on a new plan.

    Biographical Stories

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • Quite a pastoral scene, with a background of river and windmill!

  • Made some desperate conquests for his lady-love, and was defeated by a windmill.

  • He didn't mean for you to turn yourself into a windmill, that's sartin sure.'

    The Depot Master

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • But you can make flour IN a windmill, 'cause I've seen it done.


    Joseph C. Lincoln

British Dictionary definitions for windmill


  1. a machine for grinding or pumping driven by a set of adjustable vanes or sails that are caused to turn by the force of the wind
  2. the set of vanes or sails that drives such a mill
  3. Also called: whirligig British a toy consisting of plastic or paper vanes attached to a stick in such a manner that they revolve like the sails of a windmillUS and Canadian name: pinwheel
  4. an imaginary opponent or evil (esp in the phrase tilt at or fight windmills)
  5. a small air-driven propeller fitted to a light aircraft to drive auxiliary equipmentCompare ram-air turbine
  6. an informal name for helicopter
  7. an informal name for propeller (def. 1)
  1. to move or cause to move like the arms of a windmill
  2. an informal name for accommodation bill
  3. (intr) (of an aircraft propeller, rotor of a turbine, etc) to rotate as a result of the force of a current of air rather than under power
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 windmill

c.1300, from wind (n.1) + mill (n.). Cf. German Windmühle, Dutch windmolen, French moulin à vent (13c.). Verb meaning "to swing the arms wildly" is recorded from 1927.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with windmill


see tilt at windmills.

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