Definitions

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

  • n. A lever or projecting arm that moves or is moved by contact with another part, usually to transmit motion, as between a driving mechanism and a valve.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A lever or projection which is moved by some other piece, as a cam, or intended to tap or touch something else, in order to produce change or regulate motion.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A lever or projection moved by some other piece, as a cam, or intended to tap or touch something else, with a view to produce change or regulate motion.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To cover with tapestry.
  • n. An early English spelling of tap.
  • n. Carpet; tapestry; a piece of tapestry.
  • n. In medieval armor, one of the series of flexible plates hooked to the skirts of the cuirass.
  • n. In machinery, an arm, collar, lever, or cam attached to and projecting from a movable part of a machine in such manner that the motion of the machine intermittently brings it into contact with some other part to which it imparts an intermittent motion.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a lever that is moved in order to tap something else

Etymologies

Probably from tap1.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From tap +‎ -et, possibly influenced by homophony with "tap it." (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • There is no such thing as a tappet, a left-handed monkey wrench or a sky hook.

    Ask Mr. Fix-It!

  • Without even looking at them, he said: "One of your tappet valves is stuck."

    A Film Career Pulled Into Focus

  • For multiple tappet shedding, for three or more independent staves, one cam of appropriate shape is needed for each stave.

    Chapter 6

  • On the Lancashire loom, these simple weaves can be made by installing a separate tappet shaft on which tappets of appropriate shape can be mounted and driven at the required speed by change-gearing from the bottom shaft.

    Chapter 6

  • Bottles roll clanking on the floor, under the bonnet a hung-up tappet or two chatters its story of discomfort.

    Gravity's Rainbow

  • The tappet on the bell also displaces a cap _H_ which covers the funnel-shaped mouth of the pipe leading to the generating chamber, which cap, except when the swivelled supply-pipe is being brought into play, prevents any extraneous moisture or other matter entering the mouth of the funnel.

    Acetylene, the Principles of Its Generation and Use

  • The tappet _O_ attached to the bell of the gasholder come in contact with a pawl when the gasholder bell descends to a certain level and thereby rotates a pinion on the protruding end of the axis which carries the carbide containers _J_.

    Acetylene, the Principles of Its Generation and Use

  • Each time the bell falls and the tappet strikes the pawl, one compartment of the carbide containers discharges its contents down the shoot _K_ into the generating tank _B_.

    Acetylene, the Principles of Its Generation and Use

  • A tappet on the bell of an equalising gasholder depresses a lever which causes water to flow into a funnel, the outlet of which leads to a generating chamber containing carbide.

    Acetylene, the Principles of Its Generation and Use

  • The healds are drawn down by means of a series of levers adjoining one another, and worked by means of a rocking bar driven from the tappet shaft.

    Scientific American Supplement, No. 647, May 26, 1888

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