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1. any of various machines for grinding, pumping, etc., driven by the force of the wind acting upon a number of vanes or sails.
2. a wind generator; wind plant.
3. Aeron.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.
4. an imaginary opponent, wrong, etc. : to tilt at windmills.
1. windmill, mill, grinder
usage: a mill that is powered by the wind
2. windmill, aerogenerator, wind generator, generator
usage: generator that extracts usable energy from winds
windmill, apparatus that harnesses wind power for a variety of uses, e.g., pumping water, grinding corn, driving small sawmills, and driving electrical generators. Windmills were probably not known in Europe before the 12th cent., but thereafter they became familiar landmarks in Holland, England, France, and Germany. The typical Dutch windmill, also called the tower type, has a huge tower of stone, brick, or wood, in contrast to the German, or post, mill, the distinctive feature of which is that the whole building revolves on a central post. At the top of either type there is a revolving apparatus to which four to six arms are attached. The arms, usually 20 to 40 ft long, bear sails constructed of light wood, or of canvas attached to a frame. A small fan serves as a rudder to keep the wheel facing the wind.
More modern American windmills have high towers of light steel girders; at the top is a wheel with many sheet-metal concave and “warped” vanes about 4 ft long. The wheel is kept automatically facing the wind by a broad tail geared to a shaft. They have been widely used for pumping water in rural parts of the United States. Such windmills can also be used to generate about one kilowatt of elecricity.
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