1. A weapon of war, consisting of a long shaft or handle and a steel blade or head; a spear carried by horsemen, and often decorated with a small flag; also, a spear or harpoon used by whalers and fishermen. A braver soldier never couched lance. (Shak)
2. A soldier armed with a lance; a lancer.
3. A small iron rod which suspends the core of the mold in casting a shell.
4. An instrument which conveys the charge of a piece of ordnance and forces it home.
5. (Science: chemistry) One of the small paper cases filled with combustible composition, which mark the outlines of a figure. Free lance, in the middle ages, and subsequently, a knight or roving soldier, who was free to engage for any state or commander that purchased his services; hence, a person who assails institutions or opinions on his own responsibility without regard to party lines or deference to authority. Lance bucket, a kind of fuse filled with a composition which burns with a suffocating odour; used in the counter operations of miners. To break a lance, to engage in a tilt or contest.
Origin: oe. Lance, f. Lance, fr. L. Lancea; cf. Gr. Cf. Launch.