Definition of barbican in US English:



  • The outer defense of a castle or walled city, especially a double tower above a gate or drawbridge.

    • ‘A barbican is a city's first line of defence: and Railtrack is a company under siege.’
    • ‘Known as a barbican, this part of the castle would have a drawbridge, a portcullis, arrow slits, machicolations (murder holes) - any devise that was thought to be useful at stopping the enemy.’
    • ‘The gatehouse is approached via a brick barbican, a defensive outwork furnished with arrow slits and end turrets.’
    • ‘The original gate was built in the early 12 th century, the archway still showing Norman influence; in the 14th century it was heightened to accommodate a portcullis, and a barbican was added.’
    • ‘Access has not altered since the fourteenth century, when the maritime republic, then known as Ragusa, completed its two land gates, with barbicans, and two sea gates feeding the harbour.’


Middle English: from Old French barbacane; probably based on Arabic.