AskDefine | Define counterbalance

Dictionary Definition



1 an equivalent counterbalancing weight [syn: counterweight, counterpoise, balance, equalizer, equaliser]
2 equality of distribution [syn: balance, equilibrium, equipoise]
3 a compensating equivalent [syn: offset]


1 adjust or make up for; "engineers will work to correct the effects or air resistance" [syn: compensate, correct, even out, even off, even up]
2 oppose with equal weight or force [syn: oppose]
3 oppose and mitigate the effects of by contrary actions; "This will counteract the foolish actions of my colleagues" [syn: counteract, countervail, neutralize]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A weight that is put in opposition to an equal weight.
  2. A force or influence that balances, checks, or limits another.



  1. To apply weight or force in order to balance


Extensive Definition

''For the Outer Limits episode, see Counterweight (The Outer Limits)
A counterweight is an equivalent counterbalancing weight that balances a load.


A counterweight is often used in traction lifts (elevators), cranes and funfair rides. In these applications, the expected load multiplied by the distance that that load will be spaced from the central support (called the "tipping point") must be equal to the counterweight's mass times its distance from the tipping point in order to prevent over-balancing either side. This distance times mass is called the load moment.

Counterweights in action


There are five major components of a trebuchet: beam, counterweight, frame, guide chute, and sling. After the counterweight drops from a platform on the frame, gravity pulls the counterweight and pivots the beam. Without the counterweight, the beam could not complete the arc that allows the sling to accurately release the projectile.


A counterweight is also used in many rotating systems to reduce vibrations due to imbalances in the rotating assembly. A typical example is counterweights on crankshafts in piston engines.

Desk lamp

Some balanced arm lamps work with a counterweight to keep the arm and lamp in the desired position.


In traction (non-hydraulic) elevators, a heavy counterweight counterbalances the load of the elevator car, so the motor only has to lift the difference between the car load and the counterweight load. The counterweight also increases the ascending acceleration force and decreases the descending acceleration force to reduce the amount of horsepower needed by the motor. The elevator car and the counterweights both have rollers attached to them to prevent irregular movement and provide a smoother ride for the passengers.


A wind-up mechanical metronome has an adjustable weight and spring mechanism that allows the speed to be adjusted by placement of the weight on the spindle. The tempo speed is decreased by moving the the weight to a higher spindle marking or increased by moving it to a lower marking.

Tower Cranes

The tower crane (see picture) is a modern form of balance crane that is fixed to the ground. A horizontal boom is balanced asymmetrically across the top of the tower. The long arm carries the lifting gear. The short arm is called the machinery arm; this holds the motors and electronics to operate the crane, as well as the concrete counterweights.

Vertical lift bridge


Bascule bridge


counterbalance in Danish: Kontravægt
counterbalance in Italian: Contrappeso
counterbalance in Dutch: Contragewicht
counterbalance in Japanese: カウンターウエイト
counterbalance in Polish: Przeciwwaga

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

accommodate, adjust, amend, annul, antipode, antipodes, antipole, antithesis, antonym, atone for, balance, ballast, be at cross-purposes, be heavy, be opposed to, bring to nothing, buffer, cancel, cancel out, carry weight, clash, come to nothing, compensate, conflict, conflict with, consideration, contra, contradict, contrapose, contrast with, contravene, controvert, converse, coordinate, correct, counter, counteract, counterblast, countercheck, countercurrent, counterforce, counterinfluence, counterpoint, counterpoise, counterpole, counterpose, counterpressure, counterterm, countervail, counterweigh, counterweight, counterwork, crosscurrent, equalize, equate, equipoise, equiponderate, equivalent, even, even up, firm, firm up, fit, foil, foul wind, freeze, frustrate, give-and-take, have weight, head wind, heft, hold, hold the scales, immobilize, integrate, invalidate, inverse, juxtapose in opposition, keep, level, lie heavy, make up, makeweight, nail down, negate, negativate, negative, neutralize, nullify, obverse, offset, oppose, opposite, opposite number, oppugn, outweigh, pin down, play at cross-purposes, poise, proportion, quid pro quo, rectify, redeem, retain, reverse, run counter to, set off, setoff, something of value, square, square up, stabilitate, stabilize, steady, stick, strike a balance, stultify, the contrary, the other side, thwart, tip the scales, tit for tat, transfix, undercurrent, undo, vis-a-vis, vitiate, void, weigh, weigh heavy, weigh in, weigh out, weight
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