AskDefine | Define millstone

Dictionary Definition



1 (figurative) something that hinders or handicaps; "she was an albatross around his neck" [syn: albatross]
2 any load that is difficult to carry
3 one of a pair of heavy flat disk-shaped stones that are rotated against one another to grind the grain

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A large round stone used for grinding grain.


large round stone used for grinding grain

Extensive Definition

Millstones or mill stones are used in windmills and watermills, including tide mills, for grinding wheat or other grains.
The type of stone most suitable for making millstones is a siliceous rock called buhrstone (or burrstone), an open-textured, porous but tough, fine-grained sandstone, or a silicified, fossiliferous limestone. In some sandstones, the cement is calcareous.
Millstones used in Britain were commonly of two types:
  • Derbyshire Peak stones of grey millstone grit, cut from one piece, used for grinding barley; imitation Derbyshire Peak stones are used as decorative signposts at the boundaries of the Peak District National Park. Derbyshire Peak stones wear quickly and are typically used to grind animal feed since they leave stone powder in the flour, making it undesirable for human consumption.
  • French burr stones, used for finer grinding. Not cut from one piece, but built up from sections of quartz, cemented together with plaster, and bound with iron bands. French Burr comes from the Marne Valley in northern France.


The surface of a millstone is divided by deep grooves called furrows into separate flat areas called lands. Spreading away from the furrows are smaller grooves called feathering or cracking. The furrows and lands are arranged in repeating patterns called harps. A typical millstone will have six, eight or ten harps. The grooves provide a cutting edge and help to channel the ground flour out from the stones. When in regular use stones need to be dressed periodically, that is, re-cut to keep the cutting surfaces sharp.
Millstones come in pairs. The base or bedstone is stationary. Above the bedstone is the turning runner stone which actually does the grinding. The runner stone is supported by a cross-shaped metal mill rynd fixed to a "mace head" topping the main shaft or spindle leading to the driving mechanism of the mill (either water or wind powered). The pattern of harps is repeated on the face of each stone, when they are laid face to face the patterns mesh in a kind of "scissoring" motion creating the cutting or grinding function of the stones.
Millstones need to be evenly balanced, and achieving the correct separation of the stones is crucial to producing good quality flour. The experienced miller will be able to adjust their separation very accurately.
A Millstone around one's neck is also a phrase used constituting a metaphor meaning a burden or large inconvenience one has to endure.

Ancient history

Neolithic man used millstone functionality to process grains, nuts and other vegetable food products for consumption. These implements are often called grinding stones. They used either saddlestones and rotary querns turned by hand. Such devices were also used to grind pigments and metal ores prior to smelting.


millstone in Aragonese: Ruello (molín)
millstone in German: M%C3%BChlstein
millstone in Spanish: muela de molino
millstone in French: meule
millstone in Dutch: Molensteen
millstone in Polish: Żarna
millstone in Portuguese: Mó
millstone in Hebrew: ריחיים

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1