GIMBAL, a mechanical device for hanging some object so that it should keep a horizontal and constant position, while the body from which it is suspended is in free motion, so that the motion of the supporting body is not communicated to it. It is thus used particularly for the suspension of compasses or chronometers and lamps at sea, and usually consists of a ring freely moving on an axis, within which the object swings on an axis at right angles to the ring.
The word is derived from the O. Fr. gemel, from Lat. gemellus, diminutive of geminus, a twin, and appears also in gimmel or jimbel and as gemel, especially as a term for a ring formed of two hoops linked together and capable of separation, used in the 16th and 17th centuries as betrothal and keepsake rings. They sometimes were made of three or more hoops linked together.
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