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[bahr-bi-kuh n] /ˈbɑr bɪ kən/
an outwork of a fortified place, as a castle.
a defensive outpost of any sort.
Also, barbacan.
Origin of barbican
1250-1300; Middle English barbecan, barbican < Old French barbacane or Medieval Latin barbacana, perhaps ≪ Persian bālāḥāna terrace over a roof, upper floor, altered by association with Latin barba beard, a beard marking the front or face of a thing Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for barbican
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • So somehow or other the Jacktars got the lobster out, and set the mayor free, and put him ashore at the barbican.

    The Water-Babies Charles Kingsley
  • I will be off the landing-place at the barbican with a boat.

    The Ocean Cat's Paw George Manville Fenn
  • Barbacan, or barbican, a fortification to a castle outside the walls, generally at the end of the drawbridge in front of the gate.

    The Nuttall Encyclopaedia Edited by Rev. James Wood
  • He dyed about 1647; buried in Cripplegate church, from his house in the barbican.

  • At present she's living in Plymouth, assistant in a ham-and-beef shop, as you turn down to the barbican.

    Poison Island Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch (Q)
  • Some remains of the old barbican were to be seen here in the last century.

    Bygone London Frederick Ross
  • barbican, opening his note-book, made the proper entry among the minutes of the meeting of December 6th.

    All Around the Moon Jules Verne
  • The said suburb extended from the barbican of the city as far as the corner of the said city.

  • What did they see, what could they see at a distance so uncertain that barbican has never been able even to guess at it?

    All Around the Moon Jules Verne
British Dictionary definitions for barbican


a walled outwork or tower to protect a gate or drawbridge of a fortification
a watchtower projecting from a fortification
Word Origin
C13: from Old French barbacane, from Medieval Latin barbacana, of unknown origin


the Barbican, a building complex in the City of London: includes residential developments and the Barbican Arts Centre (completed 1982) housing concert and exhibition halls, theatres, cinemas, etc
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for barbican

"outer fortification of a city or castle," mid-13c., from Old French barbacane (12c.), a general Romanic word, perhaps ultimately from Arabic or Persian (cf. bab-khanah "gate-house").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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