AskDefine | Define pawl

Dictionary Definition

pawl n : a hinged catch that fits into a notch of a ratchet to move a wheel forward or prevent it from moving backward [syn: detent, click, dog]

User Contributed Dictionary



Perhaps from Low German or Dutch pal.




  1. A pivoted catch designed to fall into a notch on a ratchet wheel so as to allow movement in only one direction (e.g. on a windlass or in a clock mechanism), or alternatively to move the wheel in one direction.
    • 1994: The nails in the rim of the wheel went ratcheting over the leather pawl and the wheel slowed and came to a stop and the woman turned to the crowd and smiled. — Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing

Transitive verb

  1. To stop with a pawl.

Extensive Definition

Pawl may refer to:
  • A common component of a ratchet
  • A part of the adjustable height locking mechanism of an extension ladder
  • Pawl (constructor), a former racing car constructor
  • A part of a table saw splitter, a safety mechanism designed to prevent kickback
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