One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
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 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’).
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