- any of various windlasses, rotated in a horizontal plane by hand or machinery, for winding in ropes, cables, etc.
- a rotating spindle or shaft, powered by an electric motor, that transports magnetic tape past the heads of a tape recorder at a constant speed.
- a machine with a drum that rotates round a vertical spindle and is turned by a motor or lever, used for hauling in heavy ropes, etc
- any similar device, such as the rotating shaft in a tape recorder that pulls the tape past the head
late 14c., from Old French cabestant, from Old Provençal cabestan, from capestre “pulley cord,” from Latin capistrum “halter,” from capere “to hold, take” (see capable).