Definition of barbican in English:



  • The outer defence of a castle or walled city, especially a double tower above a gate or drawbridge.

    • ‘A barbican is a city's first line of defence: and Railtrack is a company under siege.’
    • ‘Known as a barbican, this part of the castle would have a drawbridge, a portcullis, arrow slits, machicolations (murder holes) - any devise that was thought to be useful at stopping the enemy.’
    • ‘The gatehouse is approached via a brick barbican, a defensive outwork furnished with arrow slits and end turrets.’
    • ‘Access has not altered since the fourteenth century, when the maritime republic, then known as Ragusa, completed its two land gates, with barbicans, and two sea gates feeding the harbour.’
    • ‘The original gate was built in the early 12 th century, the archway still showing Norman influence; in the 14th century it was heightened to accommodate a portcullis, and a barbican was added.’


Middle English: from Old French barbacane; probably based on Arabic.