Definition of windlass in English:



  • A winch, especially one on a ship or in a harbour.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘And as the windlass slowly turns they talk of other days,’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘And how many boats have their windlasses, cleats and bitts attached firmly enough that they would not tear out?’
    • ‘They had searched for the old mines, finding an old broken cradle and a windlass.’
    • ‘The windlass lies unaffected by more than a century of submersion.’
    • ‘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 front end of the beam was attached by a rope to a windlass.’
    system of pulleys, hoisting gear, pulley, hoist, block and tackle, crane, winch, davit, windlass, sheave
    View synonyms


  • Haul or lift (something) with a windlass.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Friday, March 17: Father worked in the hole and Mr. Glover windlassed for him.’
    • ‘Hay cocks tended to split horizontally when they were being windlassed on to the steeply inclined ruck-shifter.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I dropped the sail, rowed a line over to the dock, and began windlassing my way in.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I don't remember any problems at idling, however, last weekend it died on idle when I was windlassing an anchor.’
    • ‘This process saved the old timers the unproductive work and unnecessary sweat of windlassing all dirt up the shaft to the surface.’
    • ‘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!’
    • ‘The cutter has a pair of windlassing lugs 1 and 3 which include enlarged portions 5 and 7 at their respective extremities.’
    • ‘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.’


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