Definition of derrick in US English:



  • 1A kind of crane with a movable pivoted arm for moving or lifting heavy weights, especially on a ship.

    • ‘The vessel to be fitted with winches, derricks, wheels and ordinary runners capable of handling lifts up to 2 tons.’
    • ‘Today, two derrick cranes will move the heavy reactor and its related equipment to a trailer with 360 wheels on the pier.’
    • ‘The ship is self-sufficient in that it has its own derricks enabling to load and unload all over the world.’
    • ‘The derrick cranes being used for erection were then moved forward to the next segment and the cycle was repeated.’
    • ‘Timbers for the largest derricks could not be provided locally, so they were shipped from the West and the South.’
    winch, hoist, davit, windlass, tackle, block and tackle, lifting gear
    View synonyms
  • 2The framework over an oil well or similar boring that holds the drilling machinery.

    • ‘There were oil derricks and natural gas pipelines, grain elevators six stories high.’
    • ‘A 350 ft derrick will support the six-mile drill pipe, which could take more than a year to drive through the crust.’
    • ‘Soon drilling derricks, pipelines and roads carved up the region, and oil spills polluted lakes and rivers.’
    • ‘Oil wells no longer require derricks, so west county's 7,000 rickety towers are largely gone.’
    • ‘A few nameless shrubs, oil derricks and transmission towers line the far edges of the highway.’


Early 17th century (denoting a hangman, also the gallows): from Derrick, the surname of a London hangman.