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A caltrop used in the Vietnam War
The coat of arms of Boulaide, Luxembourg, featuring caltrops

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From Old English calcatrippe (plant that trips), from Medieval Latin calcatrippa (thistle), from Latin calx or calcare + trappa.



caltrop (plural caltrops)

  1. (weaponry) A small, metal object with spikes arranged so that, when thrown onto the ground, one always faces up as a threat to pedestrians, horses, and vehicles.
    • 1858, The journal of the British Archaeological Association
      [] her father, the emperor Alexius, who reigned AD 1081-1118, ordered caltrops to be cast in front of his archers []
    • 1954, Joseph Needham, Ling Wang, Science and civilisation in China
      By Sung times, several different types of caltrops had been developed. As in earlier times, both caltrops could be made from both wood and iron...
    • 2000, Alan Vick, Aerospace operations in urban environments: exploring new concepts:
      Caltrops, tetrahedrons, and similar devices are designed to puncture vehicle tires or limit foot traffic. The standard design has four points.
  2. (heraldry) The same object represented as a heraldic charge.
  3. (colloquial) The starthistle, Centaurea calcitrapa, a plant with sharp thorns.
  4. Any of a number of flowering plants in the family Zygophyllaceae, including several members of the genus Kallstroemia and the species Tribulus terrestris, native to warm temperate and tropical regions.


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