See also: Pawl


A ratchet featuring a pawl (2) and ratchet wheel or gear (1) mounted on a base (3)


17th c., perhaps from Low German or Dutch pal (catch (mechanism))[1], or from either French pal (stake) or épaule (shoulder).[2]



pawl (plural pawls)

  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.
    • 1910, Victor Appleton, Tom Swift and his Motorcycle:
      A pawl is a sort of catch that fits into a ratchet wheel and pushes it around, or it may be used as a catch to prevent the backward motion of a windlass or the wheel on a derrick.
    • 1994, Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing:
      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.
  2. A similar device to prevent motion in other mechanisms besides ratchets.


Derived termsEdit



pawl (third-person singular simple present pawls, present participle pawling, simple past and past participle pawled)

  1. (transitive) To stop with a pawl.

Derived termsEdit


  1. ^ pawl”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  2. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2023), “pawl”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.

Further readingEdit