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From Biology-Online Dictionary
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1. A strong vessel, commonly in form of an inverted bell, in which substances are pounded or rubbed with a pestle.

2. [F. Mortier, fr. L. Mortarium mortar (for trituarating).

A short piece of ordnance, used for throwing bombs, carcasses, shells, etc, at high angles of elevation, as 45 deg, and even higher; so named from its resemblance in shape to the utensil above described. Mortar bed, a boat strongly built and adapted to carrying a mortar or mortars for bombarding; a bomb ketch. Mortar piece, a mortar.

Origin: OE. Morter, AS. Mortere, L. Mortarium: cf. F. Mortier mortar. Cf. Sense 2 (below), also 2d Mortar, Martel, Morter.