Definition of pawl in English:



  • 1A pivoted curved bar or lever whose free end engages with the teeth of a cogwheel or ratchet so that the wheel or ratchet can only turn or move one way.

    • ‘The drive mechanism may comprise a ratchet and pawl.’
    • ‘Replace springs and pawls, put 10-20 drops of oil into the freehub and reassemble.’
    • ‘Pushing this button pushes the spring to one side, retracting the pawl from the bit opening.’
    • ‘Watch out, because pawls and pawl springs can come flying out.’
    • ‘He calls it the pawl, a proper engineering term to go with ratchet.’
    1. 1.1 Each of a set of short bars that engage with the whelps and prevent a capstan, windlass, or winch from recoiling.
      • ‘In the tang of a gathering sea breeze, listening to the click of pawls as winches spun, all the Machiavellian intrigue faded.’
      • ‘The capstan for raising the anchor was something I hadn't seen before - like a huge rolling pin set across the ship, with wooden pawls to prevent backwards rotation.’


Early 17th century: perhaps from Low German and Dutch pal (related to pal ‘fixed’).