One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1A 16th- or 17th-century cannon with a relatively long barrel for its bore.
- ‘And whereas the Spanish had only 21 culverins (long-range iron guns), the English had 153; whereas the Spanish had 151 demi-culverins, the English had 344.’
- ‘A falcon shot a 2-to 3-pound projectile; a culverin fired a 15-to 22-pound projectile.’
- ‘In view of the range he ascribes to the culverin, some remarks on gun performances are in order.’
- ‘She weighed five hundred tons and carried thirty-eight guns: twenty-two culverins and sixteen demi-culverins.’
- ‘Their ship, Lady Edwina, mounts eight culverins and ten demi-culverins along with a prime crew of English seamen.’
2A kind of handgun of the 15th and 16th centuries.
- ‘The culverins proved to be versatile and effective guns in the late medieval period.’
Late 15th century (in culverin (sense 2)): from Old French coulevrine, from couleuvre ‘snake’, based on Latin colubra.
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