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Community Comment

A Word A Day — gimbal

July 31, 2012

Word of the Day

  • gimbal
  • audio pronunciation
  • \GHIM-bul\


: a device that permits a body to incline freely in any direction or suspends it so that it will remain level when its support is tipped — usually used in plural; called also gimbal ring

“In general, typical tracking mechanisms have the laser mounted on a gimbal, which is controlled with digital servos.” — From Stamatios V. Kartalopoulos's 2011 book Free Space Optical Networks for Ultra-Broad Band Services

“When the vessel turns upright in the ocean, much of the furniture and equipment swings on gimbals so that is in the right place when the ship becomes perfectly vertical.” — From an article by Gary Robbins in The San Diego Union-Tribune, June 25, 2012


One place you might encounter gimbals is on a ship, where they are used to keep compasses and other things level with the horizon in contrast to the pitch and roll of the vessel at sea. The word “gimbal” is an alteration of “gemel,” a word for a type of finger-ring popular in the 16th century that could be divided into two separate rings. The word comes from Anglo-French “gemel” (“twin”), which in turn comes from Latin “gemellus,” a diminutive of “geminus,” the Latin word for “twin.”


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