Definition of windlass in US English:



  • A type of winch used especially on ships to hoist anchors and haul on mooring lines and, especially formerly, to lower buckets into and hoist them up from wells.

    • ‘In season a mishmash of trypots, harpoons, windlasses and long boats were collected on the beach, ready for a shout from a lookout high on Paritutu.’
    • ‘It is me who, while still being beaten, raises the anchor by hand because they have already stolen the control cable that operates the windlass.’
    • ‘The anchor windlass is located in a foredeck locker to keep it out of the way when not needed.’
    • ‘And as the windlass slowly turns they talk of other days,’
    • ‘And how many boats have their windlasses, cleats and bitts attached firmly enough that they would not tear out?’
    • ‘Celia Fiennes, on her tour by horseback in the 1690s, noted near Beaudesert ‘the coal pits where they were digging, they drew up the coal in baskets with a little wheel, or windlass, like a well’.’
    • ‘Among many other initiatives, within months she had installed windlass lifts for the food, banned the dirt-carrying crinolines worn by the nursing staff, piped hot water and cut up worn chair covers for dishcloths.’
    • ‘In my own case it was the anchor windlass - ancient, boxily ugly, and right in my line of sight from the helm.’
    • ‘The windlass lies unaffected by more than a century of submersion.’
    • ‘We find much of the wreck intact, including windlass, railings and the entrances to the cargo holds.’
    • ‘Once you've grabbed one of the four moorings or anchored behind them in 20 feet of water over sand - and of course the motoryachts have electric windlasses to make that chore much less onerous - head for the small pier and dock your dinghy.’
    • ‘In addition to daily instruction from Captain and crew, the kids haul on lines, work the windlass to raise the anchor, and take responsibility for many tasks in the daily operation of the vessel.’
    • ‘He also obtained a patent for a windlass for raising weights.’
    • ‘On the small foredeck there is an anchor windlass and anchor storage as well as excellent access for handling ground tackle and bow lines.’
    • ‘As draw weights increased, new methods and devices for spanning had to be employed, which included the cord and pulley, belt claw, ‘goat's foot ’, bending lever, cranequin and windlass.’
    • ‘All owners questioned said they settled on Rinker because they were getting the most boat and equipment for the money, equipment ranging from anchor windlasses and compact disc players to extended swim platforms.’
    • ‘The front end of the beam was attached by a rope to a windlass.’
    • ‘I have a windlass on my boat and my best friend (who incidentally docks right next to me) tells me that I am lazy for using it.’
    • ‘The deck layout features a large anchor locker forward with a mechanical anchor windlass as standard equipment.’
    • ‘A large windlass, connected to a pair of thick chains, was hooked both to the door and a set of large counter weights a few feet inside the passage.’
    • ‘They had searched for the old mines, finding an old broken cradle and a windlass.’
    • ‘In his work Mi'yar al-'aqul ibn Sina defines simple machines and combinations of them which involve rollers, levers, windlasses, pulleys, and many others.’
    • ‘The same network will connect to and command the anchor windlass and countless other remote controlled devices.’
    • ‘His work was honoured by the award of a number of prizes, for calculating the distance travelled by a ship, for a study of ship's anchors, and for a study of cranes and windlasses.’
    system of pulleys, hoisting gear, pulley, hoist, block and tackle, crane, winch, davit, sheave
    View synonyms


[with object]
  • Haul or lift (something) with a windlass.

    • ‘This process saved the old timers the unproductive work and unnecessary sweat of windlassing all dirt up the shaft to the surface.’
    • ‘In the mean time the carcass is windlassed to a height which brings it clear off the floor and the gammon level with a series of skids, a distance apart equal to the length of the gammon; the ends of which groove into smooth slots.’
    • ‘In addition, each member of the working party will carry one windlassing stick and the commander and assistant commander a pair of wire-cutters each.’
    • ‘Friday, March 17: Father worked in the hole and Mr. Glover windlassed for him.’
    • ‘The sediment and heavy substance accumulating in the bottom of the sewers, impervious to flushing, is removed by process of windlassing at the manholes and transporting to the dumps.’
    • ‘I don't remember any problems at idling, however, last weekend it died on idle when I was windlassing an anchor.’
    • ‘Hay cocks tended to split horizontally when they were being windlassed on to the steeply inclined ruck-shifter.’
    • ‘Noticing a man windlassing gravel in an apple orchard, on inquiry he learned that the man in digging a well had found pay gravel, and it had been his custom to drift from the bottom of his shaft, raise the pay dirt and wash it with a stream of water that he also used for irrigation on his farm and orchard.’
    • ‘The old men of the river tell me that he windlassed it, hauling from tree to tree, all the way over his own crude trail from Baker City, now Concrete, on the Skagit River to Baker Lake and finally up Swift Creek to the Fourth of July Mines!’
    • ‘Let her rest, my dear sir, at the bottom of her well; there she is, and there she will be for ever and ever, and depend upon it none of our windlassing will ever bring her up.’
    • ‘The cutter has a pair of windlassing lugs 1 and 3 which include enlarged portions 5 and 7 at their respective extremities.’
    • ‘I dropped the sail, rowed a line over to the dock, and began windlassing my way in.’
    • ‘He was not a big as myself, but he was strong and wiry, and never seemed to have any trouble in windlassing a heavy bucket of rock or in pulling me out of the shaft.’


Late Middle English: probably an alteration of obsolete windas, via Anglo-Norman French from Old Norse vindáss, literally ‘winding pole’.