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A mortar and pestle with black peppercorns.


From Middle English pestel, pestell, from Old French pestel, from Latin pistillum, from pīnsō (pound, beat).[1] Doublet of pistil.


  • IPA(key): /ˈpɛsəl/
  • Rhymes: -ɛsəl
  • (file)


pestle (plural pestles)

  1. A club-shaped, round-headed stick used in a mortar to pound, crush, rub or grind things.
    • 1837, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], “The Laboratory”, in Ethel Churchill: Or, The Two Brides. [], volume II, London: Henry Colburn, [], →OCLC, page 327:
      She then sat down by the fire, and carefully separated the stone from the pulp, which she burnt; and her next task was to extract the kernel, which she did by means of a heavy pestle and the hearth. The kernels were next crushed together, and placed to simmer over the furnace.
  2. (archaic) A constable's or bailiff's staff; so called from its shape.
    • 1611, George Chapman, May-Day:
      [] whether the chopping-knife or their pestles were the better weapons
  3. The leg and leg bone of an animal, especially of a pig.
    a pestle of pork

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pestle (third-person singular simple present pestles, present participle pestling, simple past and past participle pestled)

  1. (transitive) To pound, crush, rub or grind, as in a mortar with a pestle.
    • 2020, Hilary Mantel, The Mirror and the Light, Fourth Estate, page 47:
      ‘Next time, boy, that you use that mortar for garlic, I will personally knock out your brain, place it in the said mortar, pestle it to a fine paste and give it to Dick Purser for feeding the dogs.’


Related terms[edit]


  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2024) “pestle”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.