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

  • noun Any of numerous hauling or lifting machines consisting essentially of a horizontal cylinder turned by a crank or a motor so that a line attached to the load is wound around the cylinder.
  • transitive verb To raise with a windlass.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A hand or power machine for drawing a package of staves together to form a barrel.
  • To take a circuitous path; fetch a compass.
  • To adopt a circuitous, artful, or cunning course; use stratagem; act indirectly or warily.
  • To bend; turn about; bewilder.
  • noun A winding or turning; a circuitous course; a circuit.
  • noun Any indirect, artful course; circumvention; art and contrivance; subtleties.
  • To use a windlass; raise something as by a windlass.
  • To hoist or haul by means of a windlass.
  • noun A modification of the wheel and axle, used for raising weights, etc.
  • noun A handle by which anything is turned; specifically, a winch-like contrivance for bending the arbalist or crossbow. See crossbow.

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

  • intransitive verb obsolete To take a roundabout course; to work warily or by indirect means.
  • verb To raise with, or as with, a windlass; to use a windlass.
  • noun A machine for raising weights, consisting of a horizontal cylinder or roller moving on its axis, and turned by a crank, lever, or similar means, so as to wind up a rope or chain attached to the weight. In vessels the windlass is often used instead of the capstan for raising the anchor. It is usually set upon the forecastle, and is worked by hand or steam.
  • noun obsolete An apparatus resembling a winch or windlass, for bending the bow of an arblast, or crossbow.
  • noun See Differential windlass, under Differential.
  • noun A winding and circuitous way; a roundabout course; a shift.

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

  • noun Any of various forms of winch, in which a rope or cable is wound around a cylinder, used for lifting heavy weights
  • verb To raise with, or as if with, a windlass; to use a windlass.

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

  • noun lifting device consisting of a horizontal cylinder turned by a crank on which a cable or rope winds


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

[Middle English wyndlas, alteration of windas, from Old Norse vindāss : vinda, to wind + āss, pole.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Middle English windels or windas, Old Norse vindass, from vinda ("to wind") + ass ("pole"). Confer Icelandic vindilass.


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  • I remember when I was a little girl back on the farm in the Souris Valley, I used to water the cattle on Saturday mornings, drawing the water in an icy bucket with a windlass from a fairly deep well.

    In Times Like These 1915

  • The Spanish windlass, which is used in surgery for controlling haemorrage, seemed to me to be applicable for fastening scions in place.

    Northern Nut Growers Association, Report Of The Proceedings At The Tenth Annual Meeting. Battle Creek, Michigan, December 9 and 10, 1919

  • Round its sheave the rope should be passed, and then should go down from the top, and back to the windlass, which is at the bottom of the machine, and there be fastened.

    The Ten Books on Architecture Vitruvius Pollio

  • The song of the sailor at the windlass is a song of fellowship; an expression of the deepened consciousness of strength and exhilaration which come from standing together in a joint putting forth of strength.

    Essays on Work and Culture Hamilton Wright Mabie 1880

  • A somewhat important piece of circumstantial evidence came to light during the late restoration, namely a windlass close to the pier on the north side of the supposed original site of the altar, which was possibly intended to raise and lower a baldichino, or ciborium that hung originally over the altar, or still more probably the pyx, which as many instances show was usually suspended above it.

    Bell's Cathedrals: The Cathedral Church of Salisbury A Description of its Fabric and a Brief History of the See of Sarum Gleeson White 1874

  • I only have 3 needs for 3P, namely the windlass, capstan, and dive compressor.

    CR4 - Recent Forum Threads and Blog Entries bobf 2010

  • The catapult which the Carthaginians used was not the little implement that a boy uses nowadays; it was a big kind of windlass, by which a number of ropes were twisted up tightly till they acted as a spring to a strong wooden arm at the end of which was a leather cup.

    Young Knights of the Empire : Their Code, and Further Scout Yarns Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell Baden-Powell of Gilwell 1899

  • Confidently anticipating the best results, I erected a crude kind of windlass, and fitted it with a green-hide rope and a bucket made by scooping out a section of a tree.

    Adventures of Louis de Rougemont Fitzgerald, F Scott 1899

  • Confidently anticipating the best results, I erected a crude kind of windlass, and fitted it with a green - hide rope and a bucket made by scooping out a section of a tree.

    The Adventures of Louis De Rougemont Louis de Rougemont 1884

  • The little crevices and inequalities which serve as foot-holes are in places so far apart that it is like going up the steps of the Great Pyramid; and but for Giuseppe, who goes first in order to do duty as a kind of windlass, the writer, for one, would certainly never have surmounted the barrier.

    Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys 1873


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  • windlass - going around in square circles with no telling where you will wind up.

    December 9, 2017

  • I love the 'oblique approach' definition of this word! That's a fantastic connotation and one I plan on using in my own writing!!

    September 22, 2018

  • The


    each for itself—the money-makers;

    Factories, machinery, the mechanical forces—the windlass, lever, pulley—All


    The certainty of space, increase, freedom, futurity,

    In space, the sporades, the scatter’d islands, the stars—on the firm earth, the

    lands, my


    Walt Whitman - American Feuillage

    September 22, 2018