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[bin-uh-kuh l] /ˈbɪn ə kəl/
noun, Nautical
a stand or enclosure of wood or nonmagnetic metal for supporting and housing a compass.
Origin of binnacle1
late Middle English
1615-25; bin + (bitt)acle (late Middle English bitakille) < Portuguese bitacola < Latin habitāculum lodge, equivalent to habitā- (see inhabit) + -culum -cule2


[bin-uh-kuh l] /ˈbɪn ə kəl/
New York State Older Use.
a side branch of a river; millrace.
1855-60, Americanism; probably folk-etymological spelling of New York Dutch *binnekil, equivalent to Dutch binne(n) inner, interior (see ben1) + kil channel; see kill2 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for binnacle
Historical Examples
  • "South-east, sir," replied Paul, after looking into the binnacle.

    Outward Bound Oliver Optic
  • With one consent we both walked aft to the binnacle and peered into it.

    A Middy of the King Harry Collingwood
  • He bent low over the binnacle, afterwards glancing swiftly shoreward.

  • If it be in the binnacle, in course the ship as carries it must be stern towards us.

    The Ocean Waifs Mayne Reid
  • After he had left me, I lighted the lamps in the binnacle and then fell to work upon the food.

    A Cabinet Secret Guy Boothby
  • As I was passing the light in the binnacle, I looked in at the compass for a moment.

    Acadia Frederic S. Cozzens
  • I couldn't say when the danger ceased; but I found myself looking at Madame across the binnacle lamp and she was looking at me.

    Major Vigoureux A. T. Quiller-Couch
  • I flew to the binnacle; we had not in any way altered our course.

    Tales of the Sea W.H.G. Kingston
  • Seating himself on the binnacle, he ordered the lashings which had bound the two ships throughout the bloody conflict to be cut.

  • I sung out, as I stepped to the binnacle to take the bearings of the schooner from us.

    Tales of the Sea W.H.G. Kingston
British Dictionary definitions for binnacle


a housing for a ship's compass
Word Origin
C17: changed from C15 bitakle, from Portuguese bitácula, from Late Latin habitāculum dwelling-place, from Latin habitāre to inhabit; spelling influenced by bin
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 binnacle

"wooden box for a ship's compass," c.1750, corruption of bittacle (1620s), which is probably from Spanish bitacula or Portuguese bitacola, both from Latin habitaculum "little dwelling place," from habitare "to inhabit" (see habit).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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