American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. An ancient and medieval engine of warfare used to hurl heavy projectiles at a target.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. An ancient military engine used for throwing missiles. The different references to it are contradictory, as it is described as acting by means of a bow, but also as throwing large stones rather than darts. An attempt has been made to reconcile these statements by representing the engine as composed of a strong shaft, rotating on one of its ends, and having at the other end a receptacle for the missile; this shaft would be thrown forward by the recoil of a steel bow, and stopped suddenly against a transom, thus releasing the missile. Throughout the middle ages the term is used in Latin writings for military engines of different kinds. See trébuchet, mangonel, caable, petronel, pierrière, and catapult. When used as a bearing in heraldry, the ballista is represented so simplified as to be hardly recognizable. It has generally two upright posts with a movable bar between them, shown loaded at one end.
- n. [NL.] In anatomy, the astragalus, a bone of the tarsus.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. an engine that provided medieval artillery used during sieges; a heavy war engine for hurling large stones and other missiles
- From Latin ballista, from Ancient Greek βαλλίστρα (ballistra), from βάλλω (ballō, "I throw"). (Wiktionary)
- Latin, from Greek ballistēs, from ballein, to throw; see gwelə- in Indo-European roots. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“From that shelter they suddenly appeared and began the attack, so that the guards were neither able to use the engine called the ballista (for these engines do not send their missiles except straight out), nor, indeed, could they ward off their assailants with their arrows, since the situation was against them on account of the large shields.”
“There was also a great deal of work on the ballista which is a hop forward with a loud slap of the foot.”
“The fun ended when the ballista I'd constructed using binder clips, rubber bands and the side of a filing cabinet drawer launched a projectile over my intended target and smack into a Judge's back.”
“One ballista impaled an ogre, bringing him down, and two of the catapult stones smashed others, but the rest came on.”
“Watchers loaded crossbows and lifted longbows, ballista crews readied great bolts, catapulters rolled huge stones into their mechanisms.”
“Here were siege devourers, living engines of destruction, also equipped with ballista and cannon.”
“The ship was down, there was no reason to shoot it with a big ballista-thing.”
“Even today, you need to check English Heritage's opening hours - unless you have a scaling ladder or ballista in the back of your car.”
“After pounding the position with arrows, javelins and ballista bolts, the attackers swept up the north slope and overran the ridge line.”
“Soon after the seige commenced, Josephus tells us, he was killed by a stone from a Roman ballista.”
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