Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A post or an object mounted on a post, used as a target in tilting exercises.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An object to be tilted at; -- called also quintel.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A figure or other object to be tilted at.
  • n. The game or exercise of tilting at the quintain.
  • n. Same as cinquain, 2.

Etymologies

Middle English quintaine, from Old French, probably from Latin quīntāna (via), fifth (street in a Roman camp, supposedly used for military exercises), from quīntus, fifth; see penkwe in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Anglo-Norman quintine, quinteine, Middle French quintaine, probably from Latin quīntāna ("street separating fifth and sixth maniples in a Roman camp"), feminine form of quīntānus ("pertaining to the fifth"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • It is the custom to hoist married men, who are not blest with children, on the quintain, which is made to revolve rapidly.

    Old English Sports

  • Then when the carols were ended, the ladies and maidens sat down on the green grass and fresh flowers, and the squires set up a game of tilting called quintain upon the meadows and played till even-song; and then Merlin came to the damsel and asked if he had done what he promised for her.

    Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic

  • ThQ catching at the apple and, at lead, puts one in mind of the ancient of the quintain, which is now almoft forgot - nd of which a defcription may be found in s Survey of London.

    Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis

  • The four pages were in the tilt yard, where there stood a wooden figure, called a "quintain," which turned round upon an axis, and held a wooden sword in one hand and a buckler in the other.

    The Rival Heirs; being the Third and Last Chronicle of Aescendune

  • He was a sturdy boy; his right forearm noticeably muscled, probably from long work with the quintain and wooden sword.

    DOUR CUTLER • by J.C. Towler

  • As I watched Sir William Parr repeatedly pluck the ring from the post and outshine every other competitor at the quintain, too, I could not help but imagine him in that role.

    Secrets of the Tudor Court

  • “I will take especial care, both of my person and your token,” Will promised, and rode not to the quintain but into the lists to run at the ring.

    Secrets of the Tudor Court

  • For practice, some tilted at the quintain, a stuffed figure on a revolving bar.

    Secrets of the Tudor Court

  • “More than a hand will be chilled if you are unseated by the quintain.”

    Secrets of the Tudor Court

  • So I sit with little Henry when he takes his lessons from the tutor that Jasper has employed, I ride with him in the morning, I watch him as he jousts at the little quintain that Jasper had built for him in the field behind the stables.

    The Red Queen

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