AskDefine | Define windlass

The Collaborative Dictionary

Windlass \Wind"lass\, n.[Perhaps from wind to turn + lace.] A winding and circuitous way; a roundabout course; a shift. [1913 Webster]
Windlass \Wind"lass\, v. i. To take a roundabout course; to work warily or by indirect means. [Obs.] --Hammond. [1913 Webster]
Windlass \Wind"lass\, n. [OE. windelas, windas, Icel. vindil[=a]ss, vind[=a]s, fr. vinda to wind + [=a]ss a pole; cf. Goth. ans a beam. See Wind to turn.] [1913 Webster]
A machine for raising weights, consisting of a horizontal cylinder or roller moving on its axis, and turned by a crank, lever, or similar means, so as to wind up a rope or chain attached to the weight. In vessels the windlass is often used instead of the capstan for raising the anchor. It is usually set upon the forecastle, and is worked by hand or steam. [1913 Webster]
An apparatus resembling a winch or windlass, for bending the bow of an arblast, or crossbow. [Obs.] --Shak. [1913 Webster] Chinese windlass. See Differential windlass, under Differential. [1913 Webster]
Windlass \Wind"lass\, v. t. & i. To raise with, or as with, a windlass; to use a windlass. --The Century. [1913 Webster]

Word Net

windlass n : lifting device consisting of a horizontal cylinder turned by a crank on which a cable or rope winds [syn: winch]

Moby Thesaurus

Chinese windlass, Spanish windlass, capstan, crab, crane, derrick, erector, forklift, gantry crane, hoist, hydraulic tailgate, jack, jackscrew, lever, lift, lifter, reel, tackle, winch



Middle English windels or windas, Old Norse vindass, from vinda, "to wind", + ass, "pole". Confer Icelandic vindilass.


  1. A type of winch, fitted with a wildcat for hauling chain, or a gypsy for rope.
  2. An apparatus in which horizontal drums or wheels are operated by means of a steam engine, pneumatic engine, hydraulic engine, or electric motor for handling heavy anchor chains, hawsers, etc. (FM 55-501).


A windlass is an apparatus for moving heavy weights. Typically, a windlass consists of a horizontal cylinder (barrel), which is rotated by the turn of a crank or belt. A winch is affixed to one or both ends, and a cable or rope is wound around the winch, pulling a weight attached to the opposite end.
Windlasses are used on boats to raise anchor as an alternative to a vertical capstan. See anchor windlass.
Crossbows may also use windlasses as a cocking mechanism.
Windlasses are vital in the operation of almost all locks on the British Inland Waterways.
windlass in Dutch: windas
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