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Catapult vs. Trebuchet: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Published on January 4, 2024
A catapult is a ballistic device using tension or torsion to launch projectiles, while a trebuchet is a type of catapult using a counterweight for greater force and distance.
Catapult vs. Trebuchet

Key Differences

Catapults and trebuchets are both medieval siege engines, but they operate differently. A catapult uses tension or torsion mechanisms like twisted ropes or a flexed arm to launch projectiles. In contrast, a trebuchet relies on a counterweight to swing an arm and launch its payload.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 04, 2024
The range and power of a catapult vary based on its design and size. They are generally smaller and easier to construct than trebuchets. Trebuchets, however, can achieve greater distances and force, owing to their large counterweight and longer arm.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 04, 2024
Catapults, being more compact, were often used in closer combat scenarios or within smaller confines. Trebuchets required more space to operate effectively but could hurl larger projectiles, making them suitable for breaking down fortifications.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 04, 2024
Historically, catapults were developed earlier than trebuchets. The simple mechanical principles of catapults made them prevalent in ancient warfare. Trebuchets emerged later, representing a significant advancement in siege technology.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 04, 2024
Maintenance and operation of catapults were less demanding compared to trebuchets. The complexity and size of trebuchets required skilled operators and meticulous maintenance to function effectively.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 04, 2024
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Comparison Chart

Mechanism

Uses tension or torsion (e.g., twisted ropes, flexed arm)
Uses a counterweight to swing an arm
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Size and Complexity

Generally smaller and less complex
Larger and more complex
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Range and Power

Variable, usually less than trebuchets
Greater range and power
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Historical Usage

Used in ancient and medieval times
Emerged in the Middle Ages
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Operational Space

Suitable for smaller spaces
Requires large space for operation
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Catapult and Trebuchet Definitions

Catapult

A catapult is a military machine used for hurling missiles.
The soldiers used a catapult to launch stones at the castle walls.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 19, 2023

Trebuchet

A trebuchet is a type of medieval siege engine.
They built a trebuchet to hurl boulders at the fortress walls.
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Dec 19, 2023

Catapult

Catapult can refer to a device for launching aircraft from a ship.
The fighter jet was launched from the aircraft carrier using a catapult.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Trebuchet

Trebuchet can metaphorically mean to launch something with great force.
The court decision trebucheted the company into a new set of challenges.
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Catapult

Catapult also means to move or be moved suddenly and quickly.
The unexpected news catapulted her into a state of excitement.
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Trebuchet

Trebuchet refers to a machine with a pivoted arm for projecting missiles.
The trebuchet was an effective weapon during the Middle Ages.
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Catapult

Any of various military machines used for hurling missiles, such as large stones or spears, in ancient and medieval times.
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Trebuchet

In modern usage, a trebuchet signifies a large, powerful catapult.
The trebuchet, an advanced form of catapult, was the centerpiece of the medieval siege.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 19, 2023

Catapult

A mechanism for launching aircraft at a speed sufficient for flight, as from the deck of a carrier.
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Dec 13, 2023

Trebuchet

It is a device that uses a counterweight to swing an arm and launch a projectile.
The engineers calculated the counterweight needed for the trebuchet to reach its target.
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Catapult

A slingshot.
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Trebuchet

A medieval catapult for hurling stones or other heavy projectiles, often by means of a sling at the end of a long, counterweighted, swinging arm.
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Dec 13, 2023

Catapult

To hurl or launch from a catapult.
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Dec 13, 2023

Trebuchet

A medieval siege engine consisting of a large pivoting arm heavily weighted on one end.
Medieval trebuchets are said to have been capable of launching 90-kg projectiles over distances of more than 300 meters.
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Catapult

To hurl or launch by means other than a catapult
The blast catapulted bricks across the street.
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Trebuchet

A torture device for dunking suspected witches by means of a chair attached to the end of a long pole.
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Catapult

To bring suddenly into prominence
The film catapulted her into fame.
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Trebuchet

To shoot with a trebuchet.
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Catapult

To be catapulted or hurled
The rider catapulted over the handlebars.
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Trebuchet

A cucking stool; a tumbrel.
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Catapult

To jump or spring
She catapulted over the gate.
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Trebuchet

A military engine used in the Middle Ages for throwing stones, etc. It acted by means of a great weight fastened to the short arm of a lever, which, being let fall, raised the end of the long arm with great velocity, hurling stones with much force.
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Catapult

A device or weapon for throwing or launching large objects.
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Trebuchet

A kind of balance for weighing.
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Catapult

A mechanical aid on aircraft carriers designed to help airplanes take off from the flight deck.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 13, 2023

Trebuchet

Medieval artillery used during sieges; a heavy war engine for hurling large stones and other missiles
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Dec 13, 2023

Catapult

(UK) A slingshot.
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Dec 13, 2023

Catapult

An instance of firing a missile from a catapult.
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Dec 13, 2023

Catapult

(figuratively) An instance of firing something, as if from a catapult.
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Catapult

(transitive) To fire a missile from a catapult.
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Catapult

(transitive) To fire or launch something, as if from a catapult.
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Catapult

(transitive) To increase the status of something rapidly.
The candidate selection for running mate has catapulted her to the national scene.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 13, 2023

Catapult

(intransitive) To be fired from a catapult or as if from a catapult.
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Catapult

(intransitive) To have one's status increased rapidly.
She catapulted to the national scene following her selection by the candidate.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Catapult

An engine somewhat resembling a massive crossbow, used by the ancient Greeks and Romans for throwing stones, arrows, spears, etc.
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Catapult

A forked stick with elastic band for throwing small stones, etc.
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Catapult

A plaything consisting of a Y-shaped stick with elastic between the arms; used to propel small stones
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Catapult

A device that launches aircraft from a warship
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Catapult

Medieval artillery used during sieges; a heavy war engine for hurling large stones and other missiles
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 13, 2023

Catapult

Shoot forth or launch, as if from a catapult;
The enemy catapulted rocks towards the fort
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Catapult

Hurl as if with a sling
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Catapult

In a broader sense, a catapult is any mechanism that rapidly propels an object.
The amusement park ride worked like a catapult, sending riders soaring into the air.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Catapult

As a verb, catapult means to launch or propel with or as if with a catapult.
The startup was catapulted to success after a significant investment.
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

How does a trebuchet work?

A trebuchet works by using a counterweight to swing an arm, launching a projectile.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 04, 2024

Were catapults used in ancient times?

Yes, catapults were used in ancient warfare, particularly by the Greeks and Romans.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 04, 2024

What types of projectiles did trebuchets launch?

Trebuchets launched a variety of projectiles, including stones, fireballs, and even dead animals.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 04, 2024

Can a catapult be used to launch airplanes?

Yes, modern catapults are used to launch aircraft from ships, especially on aircraft carriers.
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Jan 04, 2024

Are catapults still used today?

While not in warfare, catapults are used in education, recreation, and certain industrial applications.
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Jan 04, 2024

How large were historical trebuchets?

Historical trebuchets could be massive, some capable of hurling projectiles weighing over 300 pounds.
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Were trebuchets effective in sieges?

Yes, trebuchets were very effective in sieges due to their power and range.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 04, 2024

Did trebuchets replace catapults?

In many ways, yes. Trebuchets were a later development and offered greater range and power.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 04, 2024

Why were trebuchets important in medieval warfare?

Trebuchets were important for their ability to breach fortifications and for psychological impact.
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Shumaila Saeed
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What is a catapult?

A catapult is a device used to hurl projectiles using tension or torsion mechanisms.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 04, 2024

Is building a catapult simpler than building a trebuchet?

Generally, yes. Catapults are less complex and require fewer materials and space than trebuchets.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 04, 2024

What's the difference in range between catapults and trebuchets?

Trebuchets typically have a longer range than catapults.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 04, 2024

How were catapults powered?

Catapults were powered using twisted ropes, springs, or a flexed wooden arm.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 04, 2024

What ended the use of trebuchets in warfare?

The advent of gunpowder and cannons made trebuchets obsolete in warfare.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 04, 2024

Can catapults launch heavier objects than trebuchets?

No, trebuchets generally have a greater capacity for launching heavier objects.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 04, 2024

Were trebuchets used in naval warfare?

Trebuchets were primarily used in land sieges, not in naval warfare.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Are trebuchets more accurate than catapults?

Trebuchets are often more accurate due to their consistent counterweight mechanism.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 04, 2024

What is the historical significance of catapults?

Catapults were significant in changing the nature of siege warfare and defense strategies.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 04, 2024

What principle does a catapult operate on?

A catapult operates on the principles of mechanical energy and leverage.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Did catapults evolve into trebuchets?

While they share principles, trebuchets were a distinct development in siege technology.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 04, 2024

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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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