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From Middle English [Term?], from Old French javelline, diminutive of javelot, diminutive of *javel, from Vulgar Latin *gabalus, from Gaulish gabulum (compare Old Irish gabul (fork), Welsh gafl), from Proto-Celtic *gablā (fork, forked branch), from Proto-Indo-European *gʰeh₁bʰ-. The Old French term was also borrowed into Middle Low German as gaveline, and into Middle High German as gabilot. Cognate with gavelock, gaffle.


  • enPR: jăv'lǐn, IPA(key): /ˈd͡ʒæv.(ə.)lɪn/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ævlɪn


javelin (plural javelins)

  1. A light spear thrown with the hand and used as a weapon.
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], →OCLC, Numbers 25:7–8:
      And when Phinehas the sonne of Eleazar, the sonne of Aaron the Priest saw it, hee rose vp from amongst the Congregation, and tooke a iauelin in his hand. And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them thorow, the man of Israel, and the woman, thorow her belly: So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.
    • 1712 (date written), [Joseph] Addison, Cato, a Tragedy. [], London: [] J[acob] Tonson, [], published 1713, →OCLC, Act I, scene i, page 1:
      Flies the javelin swifter to its mark, / Launched by the vigour of a Roman arm?
    • 1846 February, Henry Melville, chapter X, in Typee [] : A Peep at Polynesian Life, London: John Murray, page 73:
      With what apprehensions we proceeded, ignorant at what moment we might be greeted by the javelin of some ambushed savage!
    • 1898, Homer, “Book XII”, in Samuel Butler, transl., The Iliad of Homer: Rendered into English Prose for the use of those who cannot read the original, London: Longmans, Green, and Co., page 189:
      As a lion or wild boar turns fiercely on the dogs and men that attack him, while these form a solid wall and shower their javelins as they face him—his courage is all undaunted, but his high spirit will be the death of him; []
    • 2023, Sufjan Stevens (lyrics and music), “Javelin (To Have and To Hold)”, in Javelin:
      Searching through snow / For the javelin I had not / Meant to throw right at you / For if it had hit its mark / There’d be blood in the place / Where you stood
  2. A metal-tipped spear thrown for distance in an athletic field event.

Derived terms[edit]


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javelin (third-person singular simple present javelins, present participle javelining, simple past and past participle javelined)

  1. (transitive) To pierce with a javelin.

See also[edit]