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From Middle English wyndlas, wyndelas, wyndlasse, wyndelasse, probably an alteration (due to Middle English windel) of Middle English windas, wyndas, wyndace, from Anglo-Norman windase, windeis and Old Northern French windas (compare Old French guindas, Medieval Latin windasius, windasa), from Old Norse vindáss (windlass, literally winding-pole), from vinda (to wind) + áss (pole). Compare Icelandic vindilass.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈwɪnd.ləs/
    • (file)

Homophone: windless


windlass (plural windlasses)

  1. Any of various forms of winch, in which a rope or cable is wound around a cylinder, used for lifting heavy weights
  2. A winding and circuitous way; a roundabout course.
  3. An apparatus resembling a winch or windlass, for bending the bow of an arblast, or crossbow.



windlass (third-person singular simple present windlasses, present participle windlassing, simple past and past participle windlassed)

  1. To raise with, or as if with, a windlass; to use a windlass.
    • 1882, Constance Gordon-Cumming, “Ningpo and the Buddhist Temples”, in The Century Magazine:
      A favoring breeze enabled us to sail all the way down the lake, and (having been windlassed across the haul-over) even down the canals.
  2. To take a roundabout course; to work warily or by indirect means.
    • a. 1660, Henry Hammond, a sermon
      He could not expect to allure him forward, and therefore drives him as far back as he can; that so he may be the more sure of him at the rebound; as a skilful woodsman, that by windlassing presently gets a shoot, which, without taking a compass and thereby a commodious stand, he could never have obtained.