[kap-stuhn, -stan]
any of various windlasses, rotated in a horizontal plane by hand or machinery, for winding in ropes, cables, etc.
a rotating spindle or shaft, powered by an electric motor, that transports magnetic tape past the heads of a tape recorder at a constant speed.

1350–1400; Middle English < Middle French cabestan(t) < Old Provençal cabestan, variant of cabestran, presumably present participle of *cabest(r)ar, a verbal derivative of cabestre halter < Latin capistrum Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
capstan (ˈkæpstən)
1.  a machine with a drum that rotates round a vertical spindle and is turned by a motor or lever, used for hauling in heavy ropes, etc
2.  any similar device, such as the rotating shaft in a tape recorder that pulls the tape past the head
[C14: from Old Provençal cabestan, from Latin capistrum a halter, from capere to seize]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

early 14c., from O.Fr. cabestant, from O.Prov. cabestan, from capestre "pulley cord," from L. capistrum "halter," from capere "to hold, take" (see capable).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
The gunboat's capstan was capable of moving weights of several tons.
Capstan is a spool-shaped cylinder for hoisting weights such as anchors and
The red or pink coating is capstan, a fungicide used on seeds meant for
The relative motion is a combination of the ship backing and the buoy being
  reeled in on the capstan.
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