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[wind-mil] /ˈwɪndˌmɪl/
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.
Origin of windmill
1250-1300; Middle English; see wind1, mill1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for windmill
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The homesteads were few and far apart; here and there a windmill gaunt against the sky, a sod house crouching in a hollow.

    O Pioneers! Willa Cather
  • Not far from his grandmother's residence there was a windmill which operated on a new plan.

    Biographical Stories Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • And maintaining an equal distance, both parties cantered leisurely up the ascent now called windmill Hill.

    Rookwood William Harrison Ainsworth
  • Made some desperate conquests for his lady-love, and was defeated by a windmill.

  • I ran out and met her as she brought her horses up to the windmill to water them.

    My Antonia Willa Cather
  • The proprietor of the windmill shop slowly turned and faced him.

    Shavings Joseph C. Lincoln
  • This is sometimes turned by hand, and sometimes it is attached to a windmill!

  • When they were a safe distance from the windmill shop the captain cautioned his daughter.

    Shavings Joseph C. Lincoln
British Dictionary definitions for windmill


/ˈwɪndˌmɪl; ˈwɪnˌmɪl/
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
the set of vanes or sails that drives such a mill
(Brit) Also called whirligig. 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 US and Canadian name pinwheel
an imaginary opponent or evil (esp in the phrase tilt at or fight windmills)
a small air-driven propeller fitted to a light aircraft to drive auxiliary equipment Compare ram-air turbine
an informal name for helicopter
an informal name for propeller (sense 1)
to move or cause to move like the arms of a windmill
an informal name for accommodation bill
(intransitive) (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 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 windmill

c.1300, from wind (n.1) + mill (n.). Cf. German Windmühle, Dutch windmolen, French 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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Idioms and Phrases with windmill


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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