Etymology
Advertisement
capstan (n.)

"upright apparatus on a ship, worked by levers, used for raising weights or applying power," late 14c., from Old French cabestant, from Old Provençal cabestan, from capestre "pulley cord," from Latin capistrum "halter," from capere "to hold, take" (from PIE root *kap- "to grasp").

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
*kap- 

Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to grasp."

It forms all or part of: accept; anticipate; anticipation; behave; behoof; behoove; cable; cacciatore; caitiff; capable; capacious; capacity; capias; capiche; capstan; caption; captious; captivate; captive; captor; capture; case (n.2) "receptacle;" catch; catchpoll; cater; chase (n.1) "a hunt;" chase (v.) "to run after, hunt;" chasse; chasseur; conceive; cop (v.) "to seize, catch;" copper (n.2) "policeman;" deceive; emancipate; except; forceps; gaffe; haft; have; hawk (n.); heave; heavy; heft; incapacity; inception; incipient; intercept; intussusception; manciple; municipal; occupy; participation; perceive; precept; prince; purchase; receive; recipe; recover; recuperate; sashay; susceptible.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit kapati "two handfuls;" Greek kaptein "to swallow, gulp down," kope "oar, handle;" Latin capax "able to hold much, broad," capistrum "halter," capere "to grasp, lay hold; be large enough for; comprehend;" Lettish kampiu "seize;" Old Irish cacht "servant-girl," literally "captive;" Welsh caeth "captive, slave;" Gothic haban "have, hold;" Old English hæft "handle," habban "to have, hold."

Related entries & more 
pawl (n.)

"short iron bar acting as a catch or brake preventing a capstan from recoiling" (nautical) 1620s, of unknown origin; perhaps from French pal "stake" [OED] or épaule "shoulder" [Klein]. Extended to similar devices in other machinery.

Related entries & more 
avast (interj.)

1680s, a nautical interjection, "hold! stop!" probably worn down from Dutch houd vast "hold fast." See hold (v.) + fast (adv.).

AVAST. — The order to stop, or pause, in any exercise or operation; as Avast heaving — that is to say, desist, or stop, from drawing in the cable or hawser, by means of the capstan &c. [George Biddlecombe, "The Art of Rigging," 1848]
Related entries & more