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[pawrt-kuhl-is, pohrt-] /pɔrtˈkʌl ɪs, poʊrt-/
(especially in medieval castles) a strong grating, as of iron, made to slide along vertical grooves at the sides of a gateway of a fortified place and let down to prevent passage.
Origin of portcullis
1300-50; Middle English portecolys < Middle French porte coleice, equivalent to porte port4 + coleice, feminine of coleis flowing, sliding < Vulgar Latin *cōlātīcius; see coulee, -itious Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for portcullis
Historical Examples
  • Between the drawbridge and the portcullis were two small guard-houses, which, very carelessly, had been left empty.

  • This suggests colander, which, like portcullis, belongs to Lat.

  • The hair rose on Claude's head, but he set his teeth; though the man died, though he died, the portcullis must fall!

    The Long Night Stanley Weyman
  • When Corkran got to his portcullis, he thought he'd reached the reward of his labours.

    It Happened in Egypt C. N. Williamson
  • The winch and portcullis are still in existence in Monk Bar, and in working order.

    Life in a Medival City Edwin Benson
  • Bid the varlets lower the draw-bridge and raise the portcullis.

    The Nebuly Coat John Meade Falkner
  • But as Balin entered in advance the portcullis was suddenly let fall behind him, cutting him off from his companion.

  • Turning, they wished to flee into the castle and pull down the portcullis.

    King Arthur's Knights Henry Gilbert
  • Slowly the portcullis sank into position across the moat and an officer advanced to meet the rider.

    The Mad King Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Unless the drawbridge can be lowered and portcullis raised—none!

    The Young Castellan George Manville Fenn
British Dictionary definitions for portcullis


an iron or wooden grating suspended vertically in grooves in the gateway of a castle or fortified town and able to be lowered so as to bar the entrance
Word Origin
C14 port colice, from Old French porte coleïce sliding gate, from porte door, entrance + coleïce, from couler to slide, flow, from Late Latin cōlāre to filter
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 portcullis

also port-cullis, c.1300, from Old French porte coleice "sliding gate" (c.1200, Modern French porte à coulisse), from porte "gate" (see port (n.2)) + coleice "sliding, flowing," fem. of coleis, from Latin colatus, past participle of colare "to filter, strain" (see colander).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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