Definition of spool in English:



  • 1A cylindrical device on which film, magnetic tape, thread, or other flexible materials can be wound; a reel.

    ‘spools of electrical cable’
    • ‘In A Midsummer Night's Dream, he takes his name from the term for an empty reel or spool used in weaving, though it obviously has additional comic implications.’
    • ‘And I listened to the old tape with the scrawled track listing and the spools that squeaked when you turned them, and became a fan forever.’
    • ‘In a circular metal container is a spool of audiotape that records the sound of snow falling.’
    • ‘The little dab of opaque glue that attached the other end of the film to its spool yielded a second white form at the lower right.’
    • ‘The LP record became a spool of tape; the spool became a cassette; the cassette became a CD; the CD became MP3.’
    • ‘In many cases, the data just sits there, unexamined, on spools of magnetic tape.’
    • ‘In several sculptures, painted yarn and spools of thread are made ambiguously tactile by offering hard surfaces on objects one knows to be soft.’
    • ‘The expatriate's urban cityscape is assembled from large spools of colored thread, empty liquor bottles, and toy cars.’
    • ‘As it turns, the moulin draws the warp threads from another device that holds a row of spools, the separate threads coming together into a single skein as they are wound onto the frame.’
    • ‘In addition, the company offers a new 3,500-yard king spool in its 304 rayon thread, with 35 shades available.’
    • ‘On top stood a tiny covered, glass candy dish, which held a ‘bonbon’ made from stacked spools of thread.’
    • ‘Startlingly, her creative materials include marker caps, spools of thread, tacks, stickers, and pipe cleaners.’
    • ‘It began as a bulky analogue box running spools of tape.’
    • ‘If they were found with copies of the video in their newsgroup spool then they could be liable for prosecution.’
    • ‘One glance at a photo of a scraggly-bearded Wilson, clad only in underwear and spools of magnetic tape, and the disinterest shown by station managers becomes quite understandable.’
    • ‘He has created exact and intimate renditions of domestic items such as a bottle-opener, a pen and refill, a box of matches, a needle and a spool of thread out of wax.’
    • ‘Some of the visual referencing could come from the regular pops and scrapes in the vinyl, which are reminiscent of the sound of a spool of film being fed into a projector.’
    • ‘Cool as those bloody moments are, they fail to provide any depth or continuing sense of upset once the film spool has wound away.’
    recording, cassette, tape recording
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1A cylindrical device attached to a fishing rod and used for winding and unwinding the line as required.
      • ‘They're basically spools of line hung on the wall with bells attached.’
    2. 1.2[as modifier]Denoting furniture of a style popular in England in the 17th century and North America in the 19th century, typically ornamented with a series of small knobs resembling spools.
      ‘a narrow spool bed’


  • 1[with object and adverbial] Wind (magnetic tape, thread, etc.) on to a spool.

    ‘he was trying to spool his tapes back into the cassettes with a pencil eraser’
    • ‘Tapes with dual-reel cartridges eliminate the need for spooling the tape into the drive and cut the time to access data dramatically.’
    1. 1.1[no object, with adverbial]Be wound on or off a spool.
      ‘the plastic reel allows the line to run free as it spools out’
      • ‘Like a movie reel spooling back on itself the Irish piled back into their wagon, and with a newly elected driver turned her round and trudged back up the slope and out of the valley.’
      • ‘Concentrating, he could hear the tape spooling.’
      • ‘He looked from his subject to the plastic window of the cassette recorder where the tape spooled.’
  • 2Computing
    [with object] Send (data that is intended for printing or processing on a peripheral device) to an intermediate store.

    ‘users can set which folder they wish to spool files to’
    • ‘This keeps heavy print traffic off the network and allows commonly-used forms, fonts and signatures to be stored on the printer, so they don't have to be spooled across the network.’
  • 3[no object] (of an engine) increase its speed of rotation, typically to that required for operation.

    ‘a jet engine can take up to six seconds to spool up’
    • ‘The No.1 engine spooled up slower than the other three, which required a small nosewheel-steering input to maintain centerline.’
    • ‘The engine spooled down through 45 percent, and the generator went offline, which tumbled our primary attitude and heading indicators.’
    • ‘We continued to roll as both engines spooled down.’
    • ‘As the engines spooled up, I wiped out the controls and began my habitual sweep of the cockpit, beginning with the hydraulic gauge on my right side.’
    • ‘I heard a change in engine rpm, and, halfway down the stroke, the right engine spooled down past 72 percent.’
    • ‘I jammed the throttles up, but the engines barely spooled up before I throttled back per my director's signal.’
    • ‘The engines spooled down, because we had to shut them down in flight, to minimize the counterrotation induced by the torque on the rotor head.’
    • ‘As the engines spooled down, I felt the same sensation I had while on the tanker: the pressure increased and my ears hurt.’
    • ‘In a nearly identical re-enactment of the first correction, the aircraft again pitched down to apparently continue the approach with the engines spooling back.’
    • ‘Imagine my surprise when both engines spooled down.’
    • ‘You can probably hear the engines spooling up behind us.’
    • ‘My first indication would have been the sound of an engine spooling down.’
    • ‘The helicopter rattled a bit, the engine spooled back up, and Nr rapidly rose to 100 percent.’
    • ‘They love the sound of engines spooling up, the rush of air as the plane goes by.’


Middle English (denoting a spool for thread): shortening of Old French espole or from Middle Low German spōle, of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch spoel and German Spule. The verb dates from the early 17th century.