catapult

Definitions

General English

Military

  • noun an apparatus for helping planes take off from the deck of an aircraft carrier
  • noun a weapon made of a Y-shaped piece of metal with a rubber attached, used to send stones and other small projectiles over long distances

Origin & History of “catapult”

The first catapults were large military machines for hurling missiles at the enemy (originally darts, in contrast with the ballista, which discharged large rocks, but the distinction did not last); the schoolboy’s hand-held catapult, consisting of a piece of elastic fixed in a Y-shaped frame, did not appear until the latter part of the 19th century. Etymologically, their name is a fairly straightforward description of what they do: it comes ultimately from Greek katapáltēs, which was formed from katá- ‘down’, hence ‘against’, and pállein ‘hurl’.
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