Difference Between Trebuchet and Catapult

Trebuchet vs Catapult

Long before the development of modern artillery, bow and arrow were the only items of weaponry used, in addition to hand held knives and spears. Bow and arrow gave mankind the idea to develop a device such as catapult to throw weapons at the enemy. There is another device called trebuchet that is very similar to catapult. This confuses many as they cannot differentiate between a catapult and a trebuchet. This article takes a close look at these two devices to come up with their differences.


Catapult is a generic term that refers to a machine that can throw a projectile over a long distance to hurt the enemy without making use of a firearm. This device was used for a long time before the invention of modern artillery in the battlefield, to inflict harm upon enemy forces. The word has been derived from ancient Greek word that means to toss or to hurl. The device was first used by Greeks.

A catapult normally consists of an extended arm made of springy wood that contains the payload. This arm is pulled back to provide potential energy to the payload. The payload is released to make it go high up in the air in the direction where it is intended to be hurled. It is the spring action of the arm that generates the force in the catapult. This action hurtles the payload to a longer distance causing maximum damage upon the enemy forces.

One can easily make a catapult at home by taking a V shaped wooden device and tying a rubber band at the top of this device. Place a small piece of paper or stone on the middle of the rubber band and stretch it backwards by pulling the rubber band behind. Release the payload that gets hurled forward and upward depending upon the angle and the tension of the rubber band.


Trebuchet was a device used in middle ages to throw projectiles over the walls of cities and castles, to defeat the enemy forces. It was, in a sense, a mechanical thrower that utilized the energy provided by a counterweight to throw large weights over the walls of enemies. Using a trebuchet, armies could throw large objects like rocks to destroy fortifications of enemies. It was a type of catapult as it could be used to throw projectiles, but it made use of the downward pull of a weight hung on a long beam rather than by the energy of a twisted rope or spring.

What is the difference between Catapult and Trebuchet? 

• Catapult is the generic term used to describe devices that could throw projectiles over long distances in battlefields.

• Trebuchet is a kind of catapult.

• Catapult makes use of tension of a sling, whereas trebuchet makes use of the energy of a raised counterweight.

• In a trebuchet, a weight is used to pull down the lever to the other end of which is attached a payload.

• While a catapult was mainly used to destroy enemy fortifications, trebuchet had a dual role to, not only throw large loads over a long distance, but also to create terror inside the towns and fortifications.

  • Michael Palmer

    Just to point something out… EVERYTHING stated above about a catapult and a trebuchet make them out to be DIFFERENT things, except the one line “A trebuchet is a type of catapult” which isn’t true at all.