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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.
  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

Coordinate terms[edit]



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 (2001–2021), “pestle”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.