• WordNet 3.6
    • n backstay a stay that supports the back of something
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • Backstay (Naut) A rope or stay extending from the masthead to the side of a ship, slanting a little aft, to assist the shrouds in supporting the mast.
    • Backstay A rope or strap used to prevent excessive forward motion.
    • ***
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • n backstay In printing, a strap of leather used to check the carriage of a printing-press.
    • n backstay In coal-mining, a forked bar of wrought-iron attached to the back of the mine-car when ascending an inclined plane, for the purpose of stopping the car in case of accident.
    • n backstay A rod extending from the perch to the outer end of the rear axle of a carriage.
    • n backstay One of the flaps of a carriage-top.
    • n backstay In purchase-shears, a powerful spring placed at the back of the moving blade to keep the two cutting edges in contact.
    • n backstay In metal-turning, an adjustable support for any very long or slender article.
    • n backstay pl. Naut., long ropes extending backward from the heads of all masts above the lower mast and fastened on each side of the ship to the chain-plates, serving to support the masts.
    • n backstay In mining, an inclined strut or brace of a shaft-head frame, designed to resist the pull of the hoisting-engine.
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
Back, a. or n. + stay,


In literature:

The mainmast was working in its shoe, the rigging and backstays sagged.
"Moran of the Lady Letty" by Frank Norris
Oh, he's a pearl of purest ray serene, if anybody should slide down a backstay and ask you.
"The Mutiny of the Elsinore" by Jack London
Employ'd fixing new Topmast and Backstays, repairing Sails, etc.
"Captain Cook's Journal During the First Voyage Round the World" by James Cook
I felt at times willing to quit my feeble hold of a backstay or shroud, and seek repose by diving into the briny billows beneath.
"Jack in the Forecastle" by John Sherburne Sleeper
Quick as lightning a ship's boy was seen gliding down a backstay.
"The Heir of Kilfinnan" by W.H.G. Kingston
Presently he came gliding down by a backstay on deck.
"In the Wilds of Africa" by W.H.G. Kingston
Yet he wondered why he could not reach out and grasp the backstay.
""Where Angels Fear to Tread" and Other Stories of the Sea" by Morgan Robertson
I slid down a backstay to the deck.
"Taking Tales" by W.H.G. Kingston
One or two of the backstays had parted, and it was plain that before long the mast would go by the board.
"Blow The Man Down" by Holman Day
When the proneness to slip off the unaccustomed foot has been overcome, backstays are not so awkward as they look.
"Faces and Places" by Henry William Lucy

In poetry:

Ah, shake and wake her, Johnnie, there's the ship for you,
Lying in the Royal Roads waiting for her crew,
And every brace and backstay is singing soft and low,
"Mother Carey wants you and you're all bound to go!"
"Mother Carey" by Cicely Fox Smith

In news:

Why would you want a mast without a backstay.
There is no backstay, but a mast jack controlled by the boat's multi-purpose running-rigging system adjusts rig tension, and the furling jib can be adjusted for luff tension.