Definition of pawl in English:


Syllabification: pawl
Pronunciation: /pôl


  • 1A pivoted curved bar or lever whose free end engages with the teeth of a cogwheel or ratchet so that the wheel or ratchet can only turn or move one way.
    More example sentences
    • The drive mechanism may comprise a ratchet and pawl.
    • He calls it the pawl, a proper engineering term to go with ratchet.
    • Watch out, because pawls and pawl springs can come flying out.
  • 1.1Each of a set of short stout bars that engage with the whelps and prevent a capstan, windlass, or winch from recoiling.
    More example sentences
    • The capstan for raising the anchor was something I hadn't seen before - like a huge rolling pin set across the ship, with wooden pawls to prevent backwards rotation.
    • In the tang of a gathering sea breeze, listening to the click of pawls as winches spun, all the Machiavellian intrigue faded.


early 17th century: perhaps from Low German and Dutch pal (related to pal 'fixed').

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