See also: merlón



An illustration of a battlement or crenellation.[n 1] The merlons are the upright projecting parts, and the portions in between them are the crenels or embrasures. Loopholes are present in the merlons depicted.
This symbol of a castle or rook in chess has three merlons at its top.
Merlons encircling the top of one of the towers of the old Roman city wall of Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.

Etymology 1Edit

Borrowed from French merlon, from Italian merlone (merlon), from merlo (merlon) + -one (suffix forming augmentatives). Merlo is derived from Late Latin merulus, merlus, possibly from Latin merula (blackbird) (as merlons resemble a row of birds perched on a wall),[1] from Proto-Indo-European *h₂ems- (black; blackbird). The English word is cognate with Italian mergolo (battlement; pinnacle), Portuguese merlão, Spanish merlón (merlon).[1]


merlon (plural merlons)

  1. (architecture, military, historical) Any of the upright projections between the embrasures of a battlement, originally for archers to shield behind while shooting arrows over the embrasures, or through loopholes in the merlons.
    Synonyms: cop, embattle (heraldry)
    • 1693, “Of the Embrasures or Merlons”, in Abel Swall, transl., The New Method of Fortification, as Practised by Monsieur de Vauban, Engineer General of France. [], 2nd edition, London: [] Abell Swall; [], OCLC 1171867350, book IV, page 75:
      The Merlons, to the end that they may be good, ought to be made of Earth, the most eaſie to be tempered that may be: And this Earth ought alſo to be mixed with Withy Twigs, or Brambles, provided they take Root, after which they are to be lined with good Turff.
    • 1754, J[ohn] Robertson, “A Treatise of Marine Fortification”, in The Elements of Navigation; Containing the Theory and Practice. [], volume II, London: [] J[ohn] Nourse, [], OCLC 316358261, section II (Of Batteries), paragraph 26, page 610:
      The parapet conſiſts of two parts, namely, the wall and the merlons. [...] The Merlons are detached pieces of the parapet, leaving openings called Embrasures, thro' which the cannon deliver their ſhot.
    • 1756 July, “An Account of the Siege and Capture of Port Mahon []”, in Sylvanus Urban [pseudonym; Edward Cave], editor, The Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, volume XXVI, London: [] D[avid] Henry and R. Cave, [], OCLC 192374019, footnote, page 319, column 2:
      A battery of guns is a bank of earth thrown up to cover the men that are to ſerve the guns; this bank is cut into holes for the cannons to fire through, about 12 feet diſtant from each other. Theſe holes are called embraſures, and the maſſes of earth between them are called merlons; [...]
    • 1797, George Staunton, “Passage to the Ladrone Islands, near Macao; []”, in An Authentic Account of an Embassy from the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China; [] In Two Volumes, [], volume I, London: [] G[eorge] Nicol, [], OCLC 681134772, page 419:
      Along the walls, at the distance of every hundred yards, were square stone towers. In the parapets were also embrasures, and holes in merlons for archery; but there were no cannon, except a few old wrought-iron pieces near the gate.
    • 1832, C[harles] W[illiam] Pasley, “Of the Space that Must be Allowed, for the Extreme Half Merlon at the Flank of a Battery, when Finished without an Empaulment”, in Rules, Chiefly Deduced from Experiment, for Conducting the Practical Operations of a Siege, Chatham, Kent: [] Establishment for Field Instruction, OCLC 224729515, part II (Containing an Essay on the Construction of Batteries in the Field), section I (The Several Kinds of Batteries Defined. []), page 16:
      [T]he property of sloping surfaces [...] causes a cannon ball from the fortress, which enters by the mouth and strikes one cheek of an embrasure, to glance off without penetrating through the merlon on that side. Such a ball is not therefore likely to prove fatal to those men who are covered by the merlon, but to those only who stand immediately behind the embrasure, and not always even to them, for if it should strike the very sloping part of the cheek, it may be reflected upwards.
    • 1934 August, Robert E[rvin] Howard, “The Devil in Iron”, in Farnsworth Wright, editor, Weird Tales: A Magazine of the Bizarre and Unusual, Indianapolis, Ind.: Popular Fiction Pub. Co., OCLC 55045234; republished as The Devil in Iron, [Auckland]: The Floating Press, 2013, →ISBN, page 42:
      He had appropriated a thick tapestry rope in the great hall, and now, having reached the parapet, he looped the soft strong cord about the girl's hips and lowered her to the earth. Then, making one end fast to a merlon, he slid down after her.
    • 1991, Barbara Brend, “Lands of the West: Egypt, North Africa and Spain”, in Islamic Art, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, →ISBN, page 54:
      The exterior façades of the Cordoba mosque are carefully composed, with buttresses interspersed with doorways which reflect the framed arch of the mihrab. The upper line of the wall is given a dramatic and eastern finish with a row of stepped merlons.
    • 2012, James Herbert, chapter 21, in Ash, London: Pan Books, published 2013, →ISBN, page 141:
      The castle spread out before him, its high solid sandstone walls, with their crenel and merlon battlements ending in round towers, was a magnificent sight.

Etymology 2Edit

A variant of merlin.


merlon (plural merlons)

  1. Alternative spelling of merlin (a small falcon, Falco columbarius)
    • 1949, N. P. Toll, “[Fibulae.] Bow Fibulae.”, in Teresa G. Frisch; N. P. Toll; M[ikhail] I[vanovich] Rostoftzeff, A. R. Bellinger, F. E. Brown, N. P. Toll, and C. B. Welles, editors, The Excavations at Dura-Europos: Conducted by Yale University and the French Academy of Inscriptions and Letters: Final Report IV: Part IV. The Bronze Objects: Fascicle 1. Pierced Bronzes, Enameled Bronzes, and Fibulae, New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press; London: Geoffrey Cumberlege, Oxford University Press, OCLC 1112973378, page 56:
      Most of the fibulae have a triangular molding above the notch, which probably contained wound wire. The crossbar is decorated either with a flat knob or with a Persian merlon.
    • 1991, Thomas S. Henricks, “Sport in Feudal England”, in Disputed Pleasures: Sport and Society in Preindustrial England (Contributions to the Study of World History; 28), Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, Greenwood Publishing Group, →ISBN, ISSN 0885-9159, page 23:
      Smaller and less powerful falcons included the merlon, the hobby, and the kesterel.
    • 2003, Thomas S. Henricks, “Sport in the Later Middle Ages”, in Eric Dunning and Dominic Malcolm, editors, Sport (Critical Concepts in Sociology), volume II (The Development of Sport), London; New York, N.Y.: Routledge, →ISBN, part 10 (Medieval and Other Pre-modern Sports), page 160:
      The connection between sporting activities and social rank is given a fanciful expression in the aforementioned The Boke of St. Albans. In that work the author lists the types of birds considered appropriate for the various stations of human life: / The eagle, the vulture, and the merlon for an emperor [...]


  1. ^ From Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (1858) , “CRÉNEAU”, in Dictionnaire raisonné de l’architecture française du XIe au XVIe siècle [Systematic Dictionary of French Architecture from the 9th to 16th Centuries], volume IV (Construction–Cyborium), Paris: B. Bance, [], OCLC 458608792, figure 15, page 387.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Compare “merlon, n.”, in OED Online  , Oxford: Oxford University Press, September 2001; “merlon, n.” in Lexico,; Oxford University Press.

Further readingEdit



From Italian merlone (merlon), from merlo (merlon) + -one (suffix forming augmentatives). Merlo is derived from Late Latin merulus, merlus, possibly from Latin merula (blackbird) (as merlons resemble a row of birds perched on a wall),[1] from Proto-Indo-European *h₂ems- (black; blackbird).


  • IPA(key): /mɛʁ.lɔ̃/
  • Hyphenation: mer‧lon


merlon m (plural merlons)

  1. (architecture, military) merlon


  • English: merlon