Definitions

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

  • n. A defensive obstacle made by laying felled trees on top of each other with branches, sometimes sharpened, facing the enemy.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A means of defense formed by felled trees, the ends of whose branches are sharpened and directed outwards, or against the enemy.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In the middle ages, an officer of the stables who had the care of measuring out the provender; an avenor.
  • n. In fortification, a barricade made of felled trees denuded of their smaller branches, with the butt-ends of the trunks embedded in the earth or secured by pickets, and the sharpened ends of the branches directed upward and outward toward an advancing enemy, for the purpose of obstructing his progress.
  • n. In coal-mining, walls of cord-wood piled up crosswise to keep the underground roads open so as to secure ventilation.

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

  • n. a line of defense consisting of a barrier of felled or live trees with branches (sharpened or with barbed wire entwined) pointed toward the enemy

Etymologies

French, pile of things thrown down, from Old French abateis; akin to abattre, to throw down; see abate.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
French abatis, abattis, "mass of things beaten or cut down", from abattre. See abate. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • I mean that the Wilderness woodsmen, without orders from Clay, had converted the entire area that would have to be traversed into a natural death trap, an abatis, a French word my grandfather did not know, nor did I when I first heard it.

    Mexico

  • Her feet, of a kind that painters call abatis, rose above the varnished leather of the shoes in a swelling that was some inches high.

    Pierre Grassou

  • High entanglements (known as abatis) may be made by felling trees toward the enemy, and similar entanglements made of brushwood are useful in emergency.

    Military Instructors Manual

  • MODs lay minefields, dig AT ditches, emplace demolitions, and create other obstacles, such as abatis or log cribs to block forest roads.

    FM 100-61 Chptr 12 Engineer Support

  • "abatis" from the fallen trees, while earthworks commanding the position were soon erected.

    Incidents of the War: Humorous, Pathetic, and Descriptive

  • Get engineers to build Pontoon bridges and abatis, and use sharpshooters to snipe at the enemy from a safe distance.

    Back To Gettysburg

  • Nivelles highway, and there overflowed in a large pool in front of the abatis of trees which barred the way, at a spot which is still pointed out.

    Les Miserables

  • They cleared the ground in front of the works, lacing it with abatis.

    Cavalryman of the Lost Cause

  • Some took bark from trees to make wigwams, while others felled big trees to make an abatis of tangled branches around their camp, leaving only the riverbank open as a line of retreat.

    Champlain's Dream

  • The attack, if it took place, would come from below; and against that Amyas guarded by felling the smaller trees, and laying them with their boughs outward over the crest of the slope, thus forming an abatis (as every one who has shot in thick cover knows to his cost) warranted to bring up in two steps, horse, dog, or man.

    Westward Ho!

Comments

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  • "Rubbish in front of a fort, to prevent the rubbish outside from molesting the rubbish inside." Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary.

    October 14, 2007