16 February 2009


Pinion is a sleeper. My thanks to Melissa Resch for waking me up in her poem "Wingus Envious," at the Desert Moon Review.

I thought I knew what pinion meant. Well, I knew part of it. But it has layers, appropriately enough, as its basic meaning seems to have to do with feathers.

Look how it goes from a wing joint, farthest from the bird's body, to "a fetter for the arm." One imagines a crusty jailer coining the phrase. But the prison humor sticks -- we say we've "pinioned" someone to the floor by holding their wrists.

Wikipedia says:

A pinion is a round gear used in several applications:

Wikipedia further says, in a disambiguation page:

Pinion may refer to:

  • Pinion, the smallest gear in a gear drive train
  • "Pinion" (song), a song by Nine Inch Nails from the 1992 EP Broken
  • Pinions, the outermost primary flight feathers on a bird's wing
  • Pinioning, the act of surgically removing a bird's pinion joint

Pinion Pin"ion, n. (Zool.)
A moth of the genus Lithophane, as Lithophane antennata,
whose larva bores large holes in young peaches and apples.
[1913 Webster]

-- From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48

Pinion Pin"ion, n. [OF. pignon a pen, F., gable, pinion (in
sense 5); cf. Sp. pi[~n]on pinion; fr. L. pinna pinnacle,
feather, wing. See Pin a peg, and cf. Pen a feather,
Pennat, Pennon.]
1. A feather; a quill. --Shak.
[1913 Webster]

2. A wing, literal or figurative.
[1913 Webster]

Swift on his sooty pinions flits the gnome. --Pope.
[1913 Webster]

3. The joint of bird's wing most remote from the body.
[1913 Webster]

4. A fetter for the arm. --Ainsworth.
[1913 Webster]

5. (Mech.) A cogwheel with a small number of teeth, or
leaves, adapted to engage with a larger wheel, or rack
(see Rack); esp., such a wheel having its leaves formed
of the substance of the arbor or spindle which is its
[1913 Webster]

Lantern pinion. under Lantern.

Pinion wire, fluted longitudinally, for making the
pinions of clocks and watches. It is formed by being drawn
through holes of the shape required for the leaves or
teeth of the pinions.
[1913 Webster]

-- From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48

Pinion Pin"ion, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Pinioned; p. pr. & vb.
n. Pinioning.]
1. To bind or confine the wings of; to confine by binding the
wings. --Bacon.
[1913 Webster]

2. To disable by cutting off the pinion joint. --Johnson.
[1913 Webster]

3. To disable or restrain, as a person, by binding the arms,
esp. by binding the arms to the body. --Shak.
[1913 Webster]

Her elbows pinioned close upon her hips. --Cowper.
[1913 Webster]

4. Hence, generally, to confine; to bind; to tie up.
"Pinioned up by formal rules of state." --Norris.
[1913 Webster]

-- From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48

n 1: a gear with a small number of teeth designed to mesh with a
larger wheel or rack
2: any of the larger wing or tail feathers of a bird [syn: flight
feather, quill feather]
3: wing of a bird [syn: pennon]
v 1: bind the arms of [syn: shackle]
2: cut the wings off (of birds)

-- From WordNet (r) 2.0

70 Moby Thesaurus words for "pinion":
anchor, appendage, arm, bind, bough, branch, bridle, chain, crest,
enchain, entrammel, fasten, feather, fetter, gyve, hackle, hamper,
hand, handcuff, hobble, hog-tie, hopple, imp, joint, lash, leash,
leg, limb, link, lobe, lobule, make fast, manacle, member, moor,
offshoot, organ, panache, peg down, picket, pin down, plume,
plumule, put in irons, quill, ramification, restrain, rope, runner,
scapular, scion, secure, shackle, spray, sprig, spur, straitjacket,
strap, switch, tail, tendril, tether, tie, tie down, tie up,
topknot, trammel, tuft, twig, wing

-- From Moby Thesaurus II by Grady Ward, 1.0

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