Definition of capstan in English:



  • 1A broad revolving cylinder with a vertical axis used for winding a rope or cable, powered by a motor or pushed round by levers.

    • ‘You will note mooring bollards and a single capstan with a large winch further behind, and are likely to come across an enormous edible crab which has been there for quite a while.’
    • ‘To minimise ice formation on the superstructure, all winches, capstans, etc. are placed under deck.’
    • ‘At the stern, a single capstan and chain hold the kedge anchor in place against the rear of the hull.’
    • ‘Another model portrayed a more elaborate method of careening a ship using an enormous floating dock with a set of capstans to pull a hull onto one side.’
    • ‘Helping were a number of Adsteam tugs and a team of ADI dockworkers who, with stout ropes and capstans finally secured the giant ship.’
    • ‘The pirates instantly began winching the cable in with a capstan.’
    • ‘He makes it fast to the cable - he reeves the jeer-fall through it - the jeer-fall is brought to the capstan, with the standing part belayed to the bitts.’
    • ‘Towards either side of the deck is another pair of capstans.’
    • ‘Near the seabed, an interesting feature is a large power capstan.’
    • ‘A variation is for a pair of capstans (vertically mounted winches), again more common on warships.’
    • ‘The stern deck itself has a big capstan in the centre, with pairs of small bollards on either side.’
    • ‘Swimming over and down the foredeck we could see winches, anchor chains and capstans fitted to an intact deck, as if on the day the Justicia was lost.’
    • ‘Heading back from the bow past three pairs of bollards, the area of deck that would have held the anchor capstans has been cut open to leave a wide hole down into the forecastle.’
    • ‘These features are as just as diagnostic as slipways, docks, capstans, roperies, smithies or other such structural evidence.’
    • ‘For simpler tasks of pulling cars through a loading/unloading area a cable and capstan were used.’
    • ‘Immediately beyond the bow, the foredeck capstans and deck winches could be seen.’
    • ‘The space round the anchor capstans is interesting; it looks as if it was designed for a gang of sailors to work the capstan by hand if the powered mechanism should fail.’
    • ‘After the top of the barrel has been shaped, the coopers wrap cables around the base of the barrel and use a capstan to cinch up the base.’
    • ‘In one design, two or more horses walked in a circle on deck, turning a capstan amidships that was geared to a paddle wheel set between a pair of catamaran-like hulls.’
    • ‘Behind the forward capstan, the wreck becomes an unidentifiable mess but it can be seen that the superstructure had rounded windows rather than portholes.’
    1. 1.1 The motor-driven spindle on a tape recorder that makes the tape travel past the head at constant speed.
      • ‘But as the tape winds on over the capstans, fragments are lost or dulled, and the music becomes a ghost of itself, tiny gasps of full-bodied chords groaning to life amid pits of near-silence.’
      • ‘Helical Scan media, on the other hand, is pulled out of the cartridge shell, then led through a complicated system of guides and capstan rollers before being wrapped around a rotating head.’
      • ‘After two years in the field, drives without a sealed mechanism experience dust buildup around the media entrance and in critical areas such as the capstan.’
      • ‘Any rolling part can do it, but the major flutter-maker in your tape recorder is likely to be the capstan.’
      • ‘For every 30 inches of tape that zips by the heads in one second, the ATR capstan rotates just four times!’


Late Middle English: from Provençal cabestan, from cabestre ‘halter’, from Latin capistrum, from capere ‘seize’.