Definitions

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

  • n. Nautical An apparatus used for hoisting weights, consisting of a vertical spool-shaped cylinder that is rotated manually or by machine and around which a cable is wound.
  • n. A small cylindrical shaft used to drive magnetic tape at a constant speed in a tape recorder.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A vertical cleated drum or cylinder, revolving on an upright spindle, and surmounted by a drumhead with sockets for bars or levers. It is much used, especially on shipboard, for moving or raising heavy weights or exerting great power by traction upon a rope or cable, passing around the drum. It is operated either by steam power or by a number of men walking around the capstan, each pushing on the end of a lever fixed in its socket.
  • n. A rotating spindle used to move recording tape through the mechanism of a tape recorder.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A vertical cleated drum or cylinder, revolving on an upright spindle, and surmounted by a drumhead with sockets for bars or levers. It is much used, especially on shipboard, for moving or raising heavy weights or exerting great power by traction upon a rope or cable, passing around the drum. It is operated either by steam power or by a number of men walking around the capstan, each pushing on the end of a lever fixed in its socket.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. An apparatus working on the principle of the wheel and axle, used for raising weights or applying power.

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

  • n. a windlass rotated in a horizontal plane around a vertical axis; used on ships for weighing anchor or raising heavy sails

Etymologies

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

Middle English, from Norman French, from Old Provençal cabestan, from cabestre, noose, from Latin capistrum, halter, probably from capere, to seize; see kap- in Indo-European roots.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

French cabestan, from Spanish cabestrante, cabrestante, from cabestrar to bind with a halter, from cabestrohalter, from Latin capistrum halter, from capere to hold (see capacious); or perhaps the Spanish is from Latin caper goat + -stans, present participle of stare to stand; confer French chèvre she-goat, also a machine for raising heavy weights.

Examples

  • Aside from a large winch, called a capstan, and various blocks and pulleys to take off some of the strain, eighteenth-century sailing ships relied on brute man power.

    John Paul Jones

  • The sailors had tied their prisoner with ropes to the heavy iron wheel in the stern of the boat called a capstan; so that as he moved he would be obliged to drag it round and thus help to work the ship.

    A Book of Quaker Saints

  • The best, like all good things, has gone for ever, and this best way was for a thing called a capstan to have sticking out from it, movable, and fitted into its upper rim, other things called capstan -- bars.

    First and Last

  • A small, strong raft, it may be forty feet square, with an upright windlass in its centre, called a capstan, is fastened to some part of the boom.

    A Study Of Hawthorne

  • Directly abaft the capstan was the fore-hatch, over which lay the path of those who walked around at the bars.

    Down the Rhine Young America in Germany

  • Also crazy "capstan" control of your reel-to-reel for early time-stretch, which, if you can understand it, makes time travel seem possible after all.

    Review: Audio Damage Discord

  • In these kind of capstan-head court-martials, at which captains will sometimes administer reefers 'law, "Woe to the weakest!"

    Rattlin the Reefer

  • Loaded down, Logan and Rytlock staggered out the cabin door and seated themselves on the capstan.

    GuildWars Edge of Destiny

  • We have verified that the intrinsic resolution of these images is going to be very high, to be quantified further after we get the demod at 100% and the capstan motor replaced.

    NASA Watch: February 2009 Archives

  • He knew in all absoluteness that he was choosing between life and death, and he limped over to the capstan and found his place.

    CHAPTER L

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