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1. a device fitted to a gate, door, drawer, lid, etc., to keep it firmly closed and often to prevent access by unauthorized persons
2. a similar device attached to a machine, vehicle, etc., to prevent use by unauthorized persons
a. a section of a canal or river that may be closed off by gates to control the water level and the raising and lowering of vessels that pass through it
b. (as modifier): a lock gate
4. Brit the extent to which a vehicle's front wheels will turn to the right or left
5. any wrestling hold in which a wrestler seizes a part of his opponent's body and twists it or otherwise exerts pressure upon it
6. Rugby either of two players who make up the second line of the scrum and apply weight to the forwards in the front line
7. a gas bubble in a hydraulic system or a liquid bubble in a pneumatic system that stops or interferes with the fluid flow in a pipe, capillary, etc.
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


A device which fastens a door, gate, or window in position; may be opened or closed by a key or a dead bolt.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a closing device. Locks first appeared in the ancient empires of Assyria, Babylonia, and Egypt in about the second millennium B.C. Even the lock designs used in ancient Egypt incorporated elements used in modern locks. In Kievan Rus’, locks of various types were made that provided for the individuality of each lock. Modern locks are classified according to their design and the action of their mechanism as locks with and without tumblers, cylinder locks, and combination locks. Locks may be removable (including padlocks) or stationary, permanently installed (built-in, mortised, or surface-mounted locks).

In locks without tumblers, when the key is turned the crossbar (latch) is checked by a spring-loaded “dog” that enters the groove of the latch plank. The security of the lock is provided mainly by the shaped profile of the keyhole. In tumber locks, the crossbar (latch) consists of a set of differently shaped movable plates (tumblers). The key may be turned only if the projections of the key bit correspond exactly to the edges of certain tumblers. In such locks it is possible to provide various combinations of tumblers— for example, four standard tumblers arranged in certain sequences will yield 24 lock series.

The principle of operation of cylinder locks is analogous to that of tumbler locks, but pins are used instead of tumblers. If the pins fully enter the radial channels of the cylindrical core, the core can be rotated around its axis and the latch can be displaced. To achieve this, the lock’s “own” key must be inserted into the keyhole. If even only one of the notches on the working edge of the key displaces a pin with an error on the order of 0.1 mm, the key will not turn. This apparatus provides the high security of cylindrical mechanisms, which are virtually unique for each lock. The series of a lock is determined by the relative location of the pins; such a series can be expressed by a four-digit or five-digit number marked on the key. The security of cylindrical locks can be improved by changing the profile of the key slot in three dimensions. Combination locks contain not only the usual elements of a lock mechanism but also features to make possible their opening with or without a key by setting levers or rings according to a combination of numbers or letters assigned to the particular lock. In stationary locks, reliability can be improved by the use of two or more keys. The lock mechanism can be connected to a clock, so that the lock may be used only during predetermined time periods. Locks can also be connected to blocking, remote-control, or alarm systems.

In addition to various locks for doors and furniture, specially designed locks are used for other applications (for example, jewelry).


Goberman, G. E., and V. I. Bychkov. Zamki i skobianye pribory. Moscow, 1962.




in navigation, a hydraulic engineering installation that is located between bodies of water with different levels and through which vessels or rafts pass. Locks are built on canals, at hydraulic

Figure 1. Diagrams of a single lock: (1) approach canal, (2) lock chamber, (3) upstream end, (4) downstream end, (5) filling and emptying system, (6) gate, (7) docks, (8) guiding dolphins, (9) a bridge; (Ie) chamber length, (bc) chamber width, (L) lift, (LHP) level of the higher pool, (LLP) level of the lower pool

engineering complexes on rivers, and in seaports whose water area experiences large-amplitude tides.

A sketch of a lock was discovered in the papers of Leonardo da Vinci. Locks were first built in Western Europe in the 16th century and in Russia—on the Vyshnii Volok Water System—in the 18th century. In the USSR, many large locks have been constructed on numerous navigation canals, at reservoirs, and at hydraulic engineering complexes on the Volkhov, Dnieper, Svir’, Volga, and Kama rivers. A substantial number of large locks have been built in Western Europe and in the USA, for example, on the Ohio, Mississippi, and St. Lawrence rivers.

A lock (Figure 1) consists of chambers, ends, and approaches. A lock chamber, in which vessels to be raised or lowered are held, is formed by two longitudinal walls and a floor. As a rule, the walls and floor are made of reinforced concrete. The chamber is sealed by metal gates located within the upstream and downstream ends. According to the number of successive chambers in a lock, a distinction is made between single locks and flights of locks. The number of chambers in a lock depends on the magnitude of the change in water level and on the relief of the terrain. To increase the traffic capacity of a lock, two or more lanes of chambers are built in tandem.

The main dimensions of lock chambers—that is, their length and width—are chosen when a lock is designed. They depend on the category of the waterway, the amount of freight expected to be handled on the waterway, and the size of the largest vessel, train, or convoy the lock is designed to accommodate at one time. The chambers of the largest locks are up to 33 m wide, up to 400 m long, and—in locks in seaports—from 5 to 15 m deep at the sea entrance. Lock chambers are filled or emptied in a prescribed time, from 5 to 15 min, by means of filling or emptying valves and a culvert system.

The ends of a lock are usually massive headworks. In addition to gates, which maintain the difference in water levels and permit vessels to pass through when the levels of adjacent pools are equalized, the ends contain sluice culverts, equipment for eliminating water turbulence, repair and emergency booms, equipment control mechanisms, and automatic control systems. The approaches to a lock’s upstream and downstream ends comprise canals for sectors of a water area that contain both berthing facilities and facilities for mooring ships waiting to be locked and guiding structures for the safe entry of vessels into the lock.

The process of passing vessels through a lock, called lockage, consists in a sequence of operations that are carried out in accordance with commands issued from a control center. The operations include the opening and closing of gates and valves, the filling of the lock chambers with water, the emptying of the chambers, and the entry and departure of vessels. The number of lockages completed in a day during the continuous operation of a lock determines the traffic capacity of the lock.


Mikhailov, A. V. Sudokhodnye shliuzy. Moscow, 1966.
Grishin, M. M. Gidrotekhnicheskie sooruzheniia. Moscow, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

What does it mean when you dream about a lock?

Locks in a dream may represent an inability to get what one wants, or being kept out. Perhaps some ability is locked up inside and needs to be expressed. Locks can also be symbols of security.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


(civil engineering)
A chamber with gates on both ends connecting two sections of a canal or other waterway, to raise or lower the water level in each section.
(design engineering)
A fastening device in which a releasable bolt is secured.
To fasten onto and automatically follow a target by means of a radar beam.
A condition in forging in which the flash line is in more than one plane.
Position of a safety mechanism which prevents a weapon from being fired.
Fastening device used to secure against accidental movement, as on a control surface.
To secure or make safe, as to set the safety on a weapon.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


A mechanical device that secures a door, gate, cabinet, or the like; may be operated by a key or by a dead bolt. The earliest door locks had a hardwood casing with working parts fabricated of metal; later, these were replaced by all-metal locks. A further significant advance in lock design was the invention of the pin-tumbler cylinder lock in 1848. Also see box lock, case lock, door lock, rim lock, stock lock.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


If things are locked up and we don’t have the key, then it is impossible for us to get to them. Consider the details in your dream and try to decipher the message. Are you the one who is locked up inside, or are opportunities closed to you? Locks in your dreams may represent those things that are currently inaccessible to you. Other interpretations suggest that locks are symbols of security and, at times, may have sexual connotations.
Bedside Dream Dictionary by Silvana Amar Copyright © 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
The Black Cats locking horns with the Rams was a chance to see where players' minds were, with Old Trafford looming.
I strongly advise anyone who is "locking horns" with bureaucracy to place their trust in this wonderful service - where no problem is too small.
Allardyce was looking forward to locking horns with both men on Saturday when the clubs meet at the Reebok Stadium.