kiter, n.kitelike, adj.
/kuyt/, n., v., kited, kiting.
1. a light frame covered with some thin material, to be flown in the wind at the end of a long string.
2. any of several small birds of the hawk family Accipitridae that have long, pointed wings, feed on insects, carrion, reptiles, rodents, and birds, and are noted for their graceful, gliding flight. Cf. black kite, swallow-tailed kite, white-tailed kite.
3. Naut. See flying kite.
4. Finance.
a. a check drawn against uncollected or insufficient funds, as for redepositing, with the intention of creating a false balance in the account by taking advantage of the time lapse required for collection.
b. a check whose amount has been raised by forgery before cashing.
5. a person who preys on others; sharper.
6. Informal. to fly or move with a rapid or easy motion like that of a kite.
7. to obtain money or credit through kites.
8. to employ (a check or the like) as a kite; to cash or pass (a kite, forged check, etc.).
[bef. 900 for def. 2; 1655-65 for def. 1; ME kyte, OE cyta kite, bittern; akin to G Kauz owl]
/kuyt/, n. Scot. and North Eng.

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Any of numerous lightly built birds of prey that have a small head, partly bare face, short beak, and long, narrow wings and tail.

They are found worldwide in warm regions. Some live on insects; others are primarily scavengers but also eat rodents and reptiles; a few eat only snails. In flight, kites slowly flap and then glide with wings angled back. Kites belong to three subfamilies of the family Accipitridae: Milvinae (true kites and snail kites), Elaninae (including the white-tailed kite, one of the few North American raptors increasing in number), and Perninae (including the swallow-tailed kite of the New World). See also hawk.

Swallow-tailed kite (Elanoides forficatus).

James A. Kern
Light frame covered with paper or cloth, often provided with a balancing tail, and designed to be flown in the air at the end of a long string; it is held aloft by wind.

Its name comes from the kite, a member of the hawk family. Kites have been in use in Asia from time immemorial, and religious significance is still connected to some ceremonial kite-flying there. In a famous experiment in 1752, Benjamin Franklin hung a metal key from a kite line during a storm to attract electricity. Kites were used to carry weather-recording devices aloft before the advent of balloons and airplanes. Types of kite commonly in use today include the hexagonal (or three-sticker), the malay (modified diamond), and the box kite, invented in the 1890s. Newer wing-like kites, with pairs of controlling strings for superior maneuverability, are also flown.

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      oldest known heavier-than-air craft designed to gain lift (fluid mechanics) from the wind while being flown from the end of a flying line, or tether.

      Over the millennia, kites have been used to ward off evil, deliver messages, represent the gods, raise banners, discover natural phenomena, propel craft, drop propaganda leaflets, catch fish, spy on enemies, send radio signals, measure the weather, photograph the Earth, and lift passengers skyward. Modern kites are flown mostly for pleasure and sport, in addition to being a folk form of artistic expression. The kite was the ancestral aircraft that launched manned flight.


      Nearly 3,000 years ago the kite was first popularized, if not invented, in China, where materials ideal for kite building were readily available: silk fabric for sail material, fine, high-tensile-strength silk for flying line, and resilient bamboo for a strong, lightweight framework. The earliest known Chinese kites were flat (not bowed) and often rectangular. Later, tailless kites incorporated a stabilizing bowline. Kites were decorated with mythological motifs and legendary figures; some were fitted with strings and whistles to make musical sounds while flying.

      After its appearance in China, the kite migrated to Korea, Japan, Myanmar (Burma), India, Arabia, and North Africa, then farther south into the Malay Peninsula, Indonesia, and the islands of Oceania as far east as Easter Island. Since kites made of leaves have been flown in Malaya and the South Seas from time immemorial, the kite could also have been invented independently in that region.

      One ancient design, the fighter kite, became popular throughout Asia. Most variations, including the of India and Japan, are small, flat, roughly diamond-shaped kites made of paper, with a tapered bamboo spine and a balanced bow. Flown without tails that would hinder their agility, these highly maneuverable flat kites have a length of cutting line coated with an abrasive attached to the bridle (see below, Aerodynamics (kite)), which is then tied to a light cotton flying line. Although the rules of kite fighting varied from country to country, the basic combat was to maneuver the swift kite in such a way as to cut the opponent's flying line.

Europe and the West
      Kite flying began much later in Europe than in Asia. While unambiguous drawings of kites first appeared in print in Holland and England in the 17th century, pennon (flag)-type kites that evolved from military banners dating back to Roman times and earlier were flown during the Middle Ages.

      During the 18th century tailless bowed kites were still unknown in Europe. Flying flat arch- or pear-shaped kites with tails had become a popular pastime, mostly among children. The first recorded scientific application of a kite took place in 1749 when Alexander Wilson (Wilson, Alexander) of Scotland used a kite train (two or more kites flown from a common line) as a meteorologic device for measuring temperature variations at different altitudes.

      Three years later, in June 1752, in what is the most famous of kite experiments, the American inventor and statesman Benjamin Franklin (Franklin, Benjamin), with the aid of his son, lofted a flat kite fitted with a pointed wire and silk sail during a thunderstorm. Somehow both father and son avoided electrocution as a metal key attached to the flying line became electrified. Franklin proved that lightning was the natural phenomenon called electricity, not the wrath of the gods. One immediate and practical outcome of the experiment was Franklin's invention of the lightning rod.

The first manned flights
      Although kites had been used as man lifters since ancient times, the kite's greatest technological contribution was in the development of the airplane. In the 19th century the British scientist Sir George Cayley (Cayley, Sir George, 6th Baronet), known as the father of aeronautics, used modified arch-type kites to make “flying machines,” which in 1853 led to the first recorded manned flight in a glider. Cayley's comprehension of both thrust and lift was the leap in understanding that would ultimately quell the ancient and faulty obsession with flapping wings as a means for manned flight. Other visionaries built man-lifting kites, many of which were rudimentary biplane gliders. Otto Lilienthal (Lilienthal, Otto) of Germany experimented with “aeroplane” kites in the 1890s and became the first man to soar in one of his kites in true hang-gliding (hang gliding) fashion.

      Around 1900 Orville and Wilbur Wright (Wright, Wilbur and Orville), self-taught aeronautical engineers who ran a bicycle shop in Ohio, began testing their biplane designs as kites. It was the Wright brothers who first focused on control—the missing ingredient for manned flight that had baffled other aviation pioneers. The brothers constructed a special box kite and braced the wings with wires in such a way that they could be twisted in opposite directions to make the kite bank and turn. They called the principle “wing warping,” and it was the breakthrough that had eluded the great inventors who had worked on flight—from Leonardo da Vinci to Alexander Graham Bell.

      With the invention of the airplane, the kite fell from favour among adults. Except for occasional meteorologic survey work, which continues to the present, the kite's status changed from a serious scientific instrument to a child's toy once again.

Kite structure
      The form and size of kites are remarkably varied. Some kites can fly in the lightest breeze, while other designs require steady winds. Kites can be made of two sticks covered with a sail material or be constructed in a configuration requiring a complex framework. Until recently, the materials for constructing kites—bamboo or wood, fabric or paper, and string—had remained essentially unchanged for more than 2,000 years. Today, kites are often built with synthetic materials.

 There are eight generic kite types. The flat, bowed, box, sled, and delta require a rigid framework fitted with a sail material, as does the compound, which is formed by integrating two or more of the above types to form one kite. A radical departure in design, the parafoil, a soft airplane-wing shape with no rigid members, used by the skydiver (skydiving) as a parachute, assumes its efficient flying profile entirely from the wind's inflating the air channels along the leading edge. Another deviation in form is the rotor, a kinetic kite that manifests lift and the Magnus effect through a horizontal spinning vane sandwiched between two cylinders—a rigid frame and sail in one.

      Although tailless kites had been common in Asia for centuries, it was not until 1893 that William A. Eddy, an American journalist with an interest in meteorology and kite aerial photography, made a significant contribution to kite development in the West by introducing his now-familiar tailless, elongated diamond-shaped design. The Eddy kite, an adaptation of the ancient Javanese bowed kite known as the Malay in the West, was a reliable and popular flier that ignited a renewed interest in kite flying and was briefly used by the United States Weather Bureau. In Australia that same year, British-born explorer and inventor Lawrence Hargrave (Hargrave, Lawrence) contrived the box kite, or cellular kite, as a by-product of his research to develop a stable three-dimensional lifting surface for powered manned flight. Exceptionally steady in high winds, Hargrave box kites flown in train, using flying line of piano wire, soon replaced the Eddy kite and were used for meteorologic work well into the 1920s.

      Regardless of the design, a kite must conform to the laws of aerodynamics and embody three fundamental characteristics: an aerodynamic structure to gain lift from the wind, a tether to keep it from blowing away, and a bridle to direct the kite face at the proper angle to the wind. A bridle consists of two or more lines attached directly to the kite face. The bridle lines are connected to each other, forming a tow point adjustable for the prevailing wind conditions. One end of the tether is connected to the tow point, and the other end is most often attached to a hand-held reel in order to manage the flying line efficiently. Some kite designs do away with bridles altogether by having their tethers connected directly to a fixed fulcrum point along the mast or to a keel (as with the delta kite) or series of fins (as with the parafoil) attached perpendicularly to the lifting surface. Locating a kite's precise fulcrum, or tow point, allows successful flight.

      Three main forces control kite flight: lift (fluid mechanics), gravity, and drag (fluid mechanics). A kite flies because the lifting force of the wind overcomes both the downward pull of gravity and air resistance to the forward motion of the kite called drag. When tethered and fixed in a position to gain lift from the wind, a kite maintains a perpetual stall—a poor aerodynamic design for an airplane but essential for a kite flying at a stable and positive angle with respect to the horizon.

      Flat kites require a tail for drag, which keeps the nose up and creates balance, much like a raft needs a rudder for directional stability. Bowed kites with a bowline strung across the back do not require a tail, since the face takes on a curve, or dihedral angle, which acts much like the bowed hull of a sailboat utilized for self-correcting buoyancy. The box, compound, sled, delta, parafoil, and rotor are inherently stable and typically do not require tails.

Launching and kite safety
      Running with a kite is not a good way to launch it. Instead, one should opt for a high start launch, in which one flyer stands about 100 feet (30 metres) downwind, with the kite facing bridle-side to the other flyer, who holds the end of the kite's line. With a steady breeze behind, a small amount of tension placed on the line allows the kite to rise effortlessly upward. A kite may also be self-launched by letting the kite fly from the flyer's hand as it takes out line.

      The potential hazards of kite flying should be taken seriously. Metals should never be used in the kite line, and kites should be flown in wide-open spaces. Care should be taken to avoid flying in stormy weather or near power lines, public streets, areas congested with people, highways, or airports. Finally, protective gloves should be worn to prevent serious line burn when flying hard-pulling kites.

Modern kite sports
      After World War II several new generic kite forms rekindled interest in kite flying in the West. In 1948 the American aeronautical engineer Francis Rogallo patented a completely flexible kite with no rigid supporting spars, which was the forerunner of the delta kite and modern hang gliding. The sled kite, invented by William Allison, came into being in the 1950s, and the parafoil, invented by Domina Jalbert, was a highly original design created in the 1960s. Flying kites continued as a popular pastime over the next two decades.

      During the 1980s kite flying with precision-controlled acrobatic stunt kites became popular. Principally chevron-shaped deltas and flexible ram-air soft designs, stunt kites, flown alone or in multiples—one stacked behind the other—can perform high-speed aerial maneuvers such as figure eights, sharp turns, stops in midair, flying backward, and other complex acrobatics. Stunt kites having two flying lines attached to the bridle are called dual-line control kites. Quad-line kites have four flying lines, which offer more precise control and instant braking action.

      High-performance kites, including the stunt variety, are made exclusively of synthetic and space-age materials. Framework spars can be fibreglass rods or tubing materials such as filament-wound epoxy, all-carbon (graphite), aluminum carbon, and wrapped graphite. Sails can be plastic, Mylar, Tyvek, ripstop nylon, or other lightweight laminates. Flying line can be braided Dacron or Spectra fibre, a low-stretch synthetic yarn of great tensile strength, which is used exclusively for power flying.

      In the 1990s improved synthetics combined with innovations in kite aerodynamics spawned an emerging generation of maneuverable traction kite “engines” capable of enough pulling power to propel a craft across land, water, snow, or ice—an ancient concept reborn. Pilots must master maneuvering the kite as an airborne sail while simultaneously navigating a moving vehicle such as a land buggy that can reach speeds approaching 50 miles (80 km) per hour. Modern kite traction has also revolutionized polar travel. Quadrifoils—soft, sparless, controllable kites—were used to haul personnel and sleds on self-supported treks in a 1995 Arctic expedition across Greenland and in a 1999 expedition to the South Pole.

Eden Maxwell

Additional Reading
Further information on the history, making, or flying of kites may be found in Clive Hart, Kites: An Historical Survey, rev. and expanded 2nd ed. (1982); Pamela Houk (ed.), Art That Flies: Resource Packet (1991); Maxwell Eden, Kiteworks: Explorations in Kite Building and Flying (1989, reissued as The Magnificent Book of Kites, 1998); Scott Skinner and Ali Fujino (eds.), Kites: Paper Wings over Japan (1997); Tal Streeter, A Kite Journey Through India (1996); David Pelham, The Penguin Book of Kites (1976, reissued as Kites, 2000); and Will Yolen, The Complete Book of Kites and Kite Flying (1976, reissued 1979).Eden Maxwell

      any of numerous birds of prey belonging to one of three subfamilies (Milvinae, Elaninae, Perninae) of the family Accipitridae. Typically, a kite is lightly built, with a small head, partly bare face, short beak, and long narrow wings and tail. Kites occur worldwide in warm regions. Some kites live on insects; others are primarily scavengers but also eat rodents and reptiles; and a few are strictly snaileaters. Kites are buoyant in flight, slowly flapping and gliding with wings angled back. Several species are as graceful as terns.

      True kites, Milvinae, have rather narrow beaks, the upper mandible being wavy-edged. They are typified by the red kite (Milvus milvus)—of Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East—and the black, or black-eared, kite (M. migrans)—found over much of the Old World. Both are large (to about 55 cm [22 inches]), reddish birds (the black kite darker), lightly streaked on the head, with long, angled wings and notched tail. The Brahminy kite (Haliastur indus; subfamily Milvinae) ranges from India to northeastern Australia. It is red-brown except for white foreparts. It eats fish and garbage. The buzzard kite (Hamirostra melanosternon; subfamily Milvinae) of Australia is a large black-breasted bird; it lives mainly on rabbits and lizards. It also eats emu eggs, reportedly dropping rocks on them to break the thick shells.

      The snail kites, found only in the New World, also belong to the subfamily Milvinae. They have sickle-shaped beaks adapted to feeding on snails, their only food. Best known is the Everglade kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis), now rare in Florida and Cuba but occurring in numbers in eastern Mexico, Central America, and most of eastern South America. It is a blackish or slate-coloured bird, about 50 cm long, with red eyes and white tail-base.

      The swallow-tailed kite of the New World (Elanoides forficatus) is a striking black and white bird of the subfamily Perninae. It is about 60 cm long, including its long forked tail. It is most common in tropical eastern South America but also occurs from Central America to the United States.

      The swallow-tailed kite of Africa (Chelicti- nia riocourii) is a small gray and white bird of the subfamily Elaninae. It occurs from Nigeria to Somalia. The white-tailed kite (Elanus leucurus; subfamily Elaninae) occurs from Argentina to California, where it is one of the few North American raptors increasing in number. It is gray with a white tail, head, and underparts and conspicuous black shoulder patches. It eats rodents. Similar kites of the genus Elanus occur in tropical Africa, Asia, and Australia. For kites called cuckoo falcons, see falcon.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • kite — ► NOUN 1) a toy consisting of a light frame with thin material stretched over it, flown in the wind at the end of a long string. 2) Brit. informal, dated an aircraft. 3) a long winged bird of prey with a forked tail and a soaring flight. 4)… …   English terms dictionary

  • kite — [kīt] n. [ME < OE cyta, akin to MLowG kuten, to gossip < IE echoic base * gou , to scream > Gr goan, to moan] 1. any of various accipitrine birds with long, pointed wings and, usually, a forked tail: they prey esp. on insects, reptiles,… …   English World dictionary

  • KITE — (Heb. דָּאָה da ah, דַּיָּה dayyah; AV, vulture; JPS kite ), a bird of prey of the genus Milvus, of which two species inhabit Israel: the M. milvus which in limited numbers winters in the country, and the dark brown M. migrans which is indigenous …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Kite — Kite, v. i. To raise money by kites; as, kiting transactions. See {Kite}, 6. [Cant] [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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