any of various machines for grinding, pumping, etc., driven by the force of the wind acting upon a number of vanes or sails.
(loosely) a wind generator; wind plant.
Aeronautics. a small air turbine with blades, like those of an airplane propeller, exposed on a moving aircraft and driven by the air, used to operate gasoline pumps, radio apparatus, etc.
an imaginary opponent, wrong, etc. (in allusion to Cervantes' Don Quixote ): to tilt at windmills.
verb (used without object), verb (used with object)
Aeronautics. (of a propeller engine or turbojet engine) to rotate or cause to rotate solely under the force of a passing airstream.

1250–1300; Middle English; see wind1, mill1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
windmill (ˈwɪndˌmɪl, ˈwɪnˌmɪl)
1.  a machine for grinding or pumping driven by a set of adjustable vanes or sails that are caused to turn by the force of the wind
2.  the set of vanes or sails that drives such a mill
3.  (Brit) Also called: whirligig, US and Canadian name: pinwheel a toy consisting of plastic or paper vanes attached to a stick in such a manner that they revolve like the sails of a windmill
4.  an imaginary opponent or evil (esp in the phrase tilt atorfight windmills)
5.  Compare ram-air turbine a small air-driven propeller fitted to a light aircraft to drive auxiliary equipment
6.  an informal name for helicopter
7.  an informal name for propeller
8.  to move or cause to move like the arms of a windmill
9.  an informal name for accommodation bill
10.  (intr) (of an aircraft propeller, rotor of a turbine, etc) to rotate as a result of the force of a current of air rather than under power

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

c.1300, from wind (n.) + mill. Cf. Ger. Windmühle, Du. windmolen, Fr. moulin à vent (13c.). Verb meaning "to swing the arms wildly" is recorded from 1927.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


see tilt at windmills.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
He lunges for a towel and staggers into the hallway as the ship's windmill-sized propeller spins out of the water.
Let them buy windmill power that produces huge amounts of unclean electricity
  into their homes.
Depending on the hight of the building, the updraft will turn the windmill and
  produce power.
He skirts the fact that each windmill actually uses only a small proportion of
  that land, permitting multiple use around it.
Idioms & Phrases
Images for windmill
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