pawl definition by Webster's New World
Webster's New World College Dictionary Copyright © 2010 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Cleveland, Ohio. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
a mechanical device allowing rotation in only one direction: one type consists of a hinged tongue, the tip of which engages the notches of a ratchet wheel, preventing backward motion
Origin: akin uncertain or unknown; perhaps to Dutch pal, pawl, stake, pole
pawl definition by American Heritage Dictionary
A hinged or pivoted device adapted to fit into a notch of a ratchet wheel to impart forward motion or prevent backward motion.
Origin: Probably from Dutch pal, from Latin pālus, stake; see pag- in Indo-European roots.