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noun (plural: capstans)
  1. A vertical cleated drum or cylinder, revolving on an upright spindle, and surmounted by a drumhead with sockets for bars or levers. It is much used, especially on shipboard, for moving or raising heavy weights or exerting great power by traction upon a rope or cable, passing around the drum. It is operated either by steam power or by a number of men walking around the capstan, each pushing on the end of a lever fixed in its socket.
Etymology: cabestan, from cabestrante, cabrestante, from cabestrar to bind with a halter, from cabestrohalter, from capistrum halter, from capere to hold (see capacious); or perhaps the Spanish is from caper goat + -stans, present participle of stare to stand; confer chèvre she-goat, also a machine for raising heavy weights.


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