from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A small, round, medium-hot dried chili.
  • noun A rounded projection behind the breech of a muzzleloading cannon.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun That part of a cannon which is behind the base-ring, including the base and knob.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun The projection in rear of the breech of a cannon, usually a knob or breeching loop connected with the gun by a neck. In old writers it included all in rear of the base ring. [See Illust. of cannon.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A small, round, hot variety of chili pepper, Capsicum annuum, which rattles when dry.
  • noun A knob at the end of a cannon, cast onto the gun barrel, to which ropes are attached in order to control recoil.
  • noun A bell attached to a sleigh or sleigh harness.

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

  • noun a bell attached to a sleigh, or to the harness of a horse that is pulling a sleigh


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

[Spanish, bell, rattle, from Old Provençal cascavel, from Vulgar Latin *cascābellus, probably from *quassicāre, to rattle, crack, from Latin quassāre, to shatter; see squash. Sense 1, from the sound of the loose seeds in the dried fruit.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Spanish cascabel ("bell, rattle").



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  • Learned this word on artillery duty today. It's the nipple-looking thing on the back of a muzzle-loading cannon barrel. It was usually made the same size as the gun's bore, so you could tell at a glance if you had the right ammunition.

    What a purty word, though, huh?

    October 14, 2007

  • I have ALWAYS wondered why that was there. It never occurred to me that it had a name. I truckle in your virtual presence.

    October 14, 2007

  • Aha! So that's why that's there!

    The first time I heard this word was when we were learning how to sing "Jingle Bells" in Spanish (in elementary school). I believe it means "little round bell."

    October 14, 2007

  • See also pommelion.

    October 10, 2008

  • "He showed Jack the two twelve-pounders with great good will. 'As pretty a pair as the heart of man could desire,' he said, stroking their cascabels as Jack signed for them; but after that his mood seemed to change – there were several other captains in front of Jack – fair was fair – turn and turn about – them thirty-sixes were all in the way and would have to be moved first – he was precious short of hands."

    Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian, p 62 of the Norton paperback edition

    July 8, 2019