AskDefine | Define winch

The Collaborative Dictionary

Winch \Winch\, v. i. [See Wince.] To wince; to shrink; to kick with impatience or uneasiness. [1913 Webster]
Winch \Winch\, n. A kick, as of a beast, from impatience or uneasiness. --Shelton. [1913 Webster]
Winch \Winch\, n. [OE. winche, AS. wince a winch, a reel to wind thread upon. Cf. Wink.] [1913 Webster]
A crank with a handle, for giving motion to a machine, a grindstone, etc. [1913 Webster]
An instrument with which to turn or strain something forcibly. [1913 Webster]
An axle or drum turned by a crank with a handle, or by power, for raising weights, as from the hold of a ship, from mines, etc.; a windlass. [1913 Webster]
A wince. [1913 Webster] [1913 Webster]

Word Net

winch n : lifting device consisting of a horizontal cylinder turned by a crank on which a cable or rope winds [syn: windlass] v : pull or lift up with or as if with a winch; "winch up the slack line"




  1. A machine consisting of a drum on an axle, a pawl, and a crank handle, with or without gearing, to give increased mechanical advantage when hauling on a rope.
  2. A hoisting machine used for loading or discharging cargo, or for hauling in lines. (FM 55-501).



  1. To use a winch
    winch in those sails, our lad!


A winch is a mechanical device that is used to pull in (wind up) or let out (wind out) or otherwise adjust the "tension" of a rope or wire rope (also called "cable" or "wire cable"). In its simplest form it consists of a spool and attached hand crank. In larger forms, winches stand at the heart of machines as diverse as tow trucks, steam shovels and elevators. The spool can also be called the winch drum. More elaborate designs have gear assemblies and can be powered by electric, hydraulic, pneumatic or internal combustion drives. Some may include a solenoid brake and/or a mechanical brake or ratchet and pawl device that prevents it from unwinding unless the pawl is retracted.


Besides industrial applications (e.g. in cranes), winches are used for towing cars, boats, or gliders. There are several winches on almost every boat or ship where they are used to pull anchor or mooring lines, halyards, and sheets.
The rope is usually stored on the winch, but a similar machine that does not store the rope is called a capstan. When trimming a line on a sailboat, the crew member turns the winch handle with one hand, while tailing (pulling on the loose tail end) with the other to maintain tension on the turns. Some winches have a "stripper" or cleat to maintain tension. These are known as "self-tailing" winches .
Winches are frequently used as elements of backstage mechanics to move scenery in large theatrical productions. Winches are often embedded in the stage floor and used to move large set pieces on and off.


The earliest literary reference to a winch can be found in the account of Herodotus of Halicarnassus on the Persian Wars (Histories 7.36), where he describes how wooden winches were used to tighten the cables for a pontoon bridge across the Hellespont in 480 B.C. Winches may have been employed even earlier in Assyria. By the 4th century BC, winch and pulley hoists were regarded by Aristotle as common for architectural use (Mech. 18; 853b10-13).
The largest electric drive winch in the world is placed on the Balder, a construction ship. It is used as a Mooring Line Deployment Winch with a diameter of 10.5 meter and an SWL (Safe Working Load) of 275 MT.

See also


winch in Spanish: Cabestrante
winch in Czech: Navíjecí buben
winch in German: Seilwinde
winch in Esperanto: Vinĉo
winch in French: Winch
winch in Hebrew: כננת
winch in Italian: Verricello
winch in Japanese: ウインチ
winch in Dutch: Lier (hijs- of trekwerktuig)
winch in Norwegian: Vinsj
winch in Russian: Лебёдка
winch in Finnish: Vinssi
winch in Swedish: vinsch
winch in Ukrainian: Лебідка
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