• Bolt


    • UK IPA: /bÉ’lt/, /bəʊlt/, /bɔʊlt/
    • US IPA: /boÊŠlt/, /blÌ©t/
    • Rhymes: -əʊlt, -É’lt

    Origin 1

    From Proto-Germanic *bultaz, perhaps from Proto-Indo-European *bheld- ("to knock, strike"). Akin to Dutch bout, German Bolz or Bolzen, Icelandic bolti, Danish bolt.

    Full definition of bolt



    (plural bolts)
    1. A (usually) metal fastener consisting of a cylindrical body that is threaded, with a larger head on one end. It can be inserted into an unthreaded hole up to the head, with a nut then threaded on the other end; a heavy machine screw.
    2. A sliding pin or bar in a lock or latch mechanism.
      • 1908: Kenneth Grahame, There was the noise of a bolt shot back, and the door opened a few inches, enough to show a long snout and a pair of sleepy blinking eyes.
    3. A bar of wood or metal dropped in horizontal hooks on a door and adjoining wall or between the two sides of a double door, to prevent the door(s) from being forced open.
    4. A sliding mechanism to chamber and unchamber a cartridge in a firearm.
    5. A shaft or missile intended to be shot from a crossbow or a catapult, especially a short, stout arrow.
    6. A lightning spark, i.e., a lightning bolt.
    7. A sudden event, action or emotion.The problem's solution struck him like a bolt from the blue.
      • 1994, Stephen Fry, The Hippopotamus Chapter 2With a bolt of fright he remembered that there was no bathroom in the Hobhouse Room. He leapt along the corridor in a panic, stopping by the long-case clock at the end where he flattened himself against the wall.
    8. A large roll of fabric or similar material, as a bolt of cloth.
      • 1851, Herman Melville, ,Not only were the old sails being mended, but new sails were coming on board, and bolts of canvas, and coils of rigging; in short, everything betokened that the ship’s preparations were hurrying to a close.
    9. (nautical) The standard linear measurement of canvas for use at sea: 39 yards.
    10. A sudden spring or start; a sudden leap aside.The horse made a bolt.
    11. A sudden flight, as to escape creditors.
      • Compton ReadeThis gentleman was so hopelessly involved that he contemplated a bolt to America — or anywhere.
    12. (US, politics) A refusal to support a nomination made by the party with which one has been connected; a breaking away from one's party.
    13. An iron to fasten the legs of a prisoner; a shackle; a fetter.
      • ShakespeareAway with him to prison! Lay bolts enough upon him.


    1. To connect or assemble pieces using a bolt.Bolt the vice to the bench.
    2. To secure a door by locking or barring it. Bolt the door.
      • 1851, Herman Melville, ,If that double-bolted land, Japan, is ever to become hospitable, it is the whale-ship alone to whom the credit will be due; for already she is on the threshold.
    3. (intransitive) To flee, to depart, to accelerate suddenly.Seeing the snake, the horse bolted.The actor forgot his line and bolted from the stage.
      • DraytonThis Puck seems but a dreaming dolt, ...
        And oft out of a bush doth bolt.
    4. (transitive) To cause to start or spring forth; to dislodge (an animal being hunted).to bolt a rabbit
    5. To strike or fall suddenly like a bolt.
      • MiltonHis cloudless thunder bolted on their heads.
    6. (intransitive) To escape.
    7. (intransitive, botany) Of a plant, to grow quickly; to go to seed.Lettuce and spinach will bolt as the weather warms up.
    8. To swallow food without chewing it.
      • 1859 Darwin, Charles, On the Origin of Species, ch 11, p 362:Some hawks and owls bolt their prey whole, and after an interval of from twelve to twenty hours disgorge pellets.
    9. To drink one's drink very quickly; to down a drink.Come on, everyone, bolt your drinks; I want to go to the next pub!
    10. (US, politics) To refuse to support a nomination made by a party or caucus with which one has been connected; to break away from a party.
    11. To utter precipitately; to blurt or throw out.
      • MiltonI hate when Vice can bolt her arguments.



    1. Suddenly; straight; unbendingly.The soldiers stood bolt upright for inspection.
      • ThackerayHe came bolt up against the heavy dragoon.

    Origin 2

    From Middle English bulten, from Anglo-Norman buleter, cognate with Middle High German biuteln ("to sift")


    1. To sift, especially through a cloth.
    2. To sift the bran and germ from wheat flour.Graham flour is unbolted flour.
    3. To separate, assort, refine, or purify by other means.
      • Shakespeareill schooled in bolted language
      • L'EstrangeTime and nature will bolt out the truth of things.
    4. (legal) To discuss or argue privately, and for practice, as cases at law.

    Derived terms



    (plural bolts)
    1. A sieve, especially a long fine sieve used in milling for bolting flour and meal; a bolter.


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