AskDefine | Define pliers

Dictionary Definition

pliers n : a gripping hand tool with two hinged arms and (usually) serrated jaws [syn: pair of pliers, plyers]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • a UK /ˈplaɪ.ə(ɹ)z/ /"plaI.@(r)z/
  • Rhymes with: -aɪə(r)z


  1. A gripping tool that multiplies the strength of the user's hand
    I need a pair of pliers to get a good grip on that broken screw.

Usage notes

  • To make clear the quantity under discussion clearer, the expressions "a pair of pliers" or "(however many) pairs of pliers" can be used.
  • "A pliers" is somewhat awkward, though accepted.

Derived terms


gripping tool the multiplies the strength of the user's hand

Extensive Definition

Pliers are hand tools, designed primarily for gripping objects by using leverage. Pliers are designed for numerous purposes and sometimes require different jaw configurations to grip, turn, pull, or crimp a variety of things. They are a tool common to many dexterous trades and occupations. Many types of pliers also include jaws for cutting.


Pliers were invented in Europe around 2000 BC to grip hot objects (principally iron as it was being forged on an anvil). Among the oldest illustrations of pliers are those showing the Greek god Hephaestus in his smithy. Today, pliers intended principally to be used for safely handling hot objects are usually called tongs. The number of different designs of pliers grew with the invention of the different objects which they were used to handle: horse shoes, fasteners, wire, pipes, electrical and electronic components.


The basic design of pliers has changed little since their origins, with the pair of handles, the pivot (often formed by a rivet), and the head section with the gripping jaws or cutting edges forming the three elements. In distinction to a pair of scissors or shears, the plier's jaws always meet each other at one point.
Pliers are an instrument that convert a power grip - the curling of the fingers into the palm of the hand - into a precision grip, directing the power of the hand's grip in a precise fashion on to the object(s) to be gripped. The handles are long relative to the shorter nose of the pliers. The two arms thus act as first class levers with a mechanical advantage, increasing the force applied by the hand's grip and concentrating it on the work piece.
The materials used to make pliers consist mainly of steel alloys with additives such as Vanadium and/or Chromium, to improve alloy strength and prevent corrosion. Often pliers have insulated grips to ensure better handling and prevent electrical conductivity.

Common types

Gripping pliers (used to improve grip)

  • Combination pliers or lineman's pliers
  • Flat-nose pliers, also known as "duckbill," after their resemblance to a duck's bill. With long, narrow, flat jaws, they are stronger than long-nose (needle-nose) pliers, but less able to reach into really confined spaces
  • Round-nose pliers, sometimes called snub-nosed pliers
  • Long-nose or needle-nose pliers, which have long, narrow jaws for gripping in confined spaces
  • Locking pliers, also called "Vise Grips" or "mole grips"
  • Tongue and Groove pliers, also called Channellock pliers after a common manufacturer.

Special Purpose Pliers

  • Wire-stripping pliers - cuts and removes insulation on electrical wire while leaving the wire intact
  • Fencing tools - pliers that include a hammer, wire cutter and nail puller on one tool
  • Retaining-ring or circlip pliers, which are used for fixing or loosening retaining rings
  • Nail-pulling pliers - an adaptation of the end nipper used for cutting wire; the jaws may be asymmetric, allowing the nail to be pulled out with a rocking motion on the surface in which it is imbedded.
  • Glass-breaking / Grozz Pliers (Breaker-grozier pliers).

Adjustable pliers

  • Slip joint pliers, which are similar to combination pliers but whose pivot can be slipped between two holes when the jaws are fully open to change their size
  • Groove-joint or tongue-and-groove pliers (occasionally called water-pump pliers although technically water-pump pliers are a slip-joint plier in the general configuration of groove-joint pliers; or referred to by the name of a well-known manufacturer, Channellock) - with adjustable jaw sizes, which are designed to grip various sizes of round, hexagon, flat, or similarly shaped objects

Cutting pliers (used to sever or pinch off)

  • Combination pliers or lineman's pliers
  • Diagonal pliers (wire cutters, side-cutting pliers or side cutters) not really pliers as only used for cutting
  • Pinching pliers (end-nippers)
  • Needle-nose pliers - designed for gripping, but typically incorporate a cutter for 'one-tool' convenience.

Crimping pliers

  • For crimping electrical terminals and connectors (solderless connections)
  • For crimping metal rings or tags on livestock
  • For crimping metal security seals on cargo carriers
  • For crimping an impression on a document - as in a notary's seal
  • For crimping laboratory vials
  • For crimping bottles with sprayer tops, such as perfume bottles

Rotational pliers

  • developed by NASA engineers to enable an astronaut to turn a nut in zero gravity. The clamping motion of the hand is converted to rotational motion to drive a socket wrench

See also

pliers in Catalan: Alicates
pliers in Czech: Kleště
pliers in Danish: Tang (værktøj)
pliers in German: Zange
pliers in Spanish: Alicate
pliers in Esperanto: Pinĉilo
pliers in French: Pince
pliers in Italian: Pinza (utensile)
pliers in Dutch: Tang (gereedschap)
pliers in Japanese: ペンチ
pliers in Norwegian: Tang (redskap)
pliers in Polish: Obcęgi
pliers in Portuguese: Alicate
pliers in Slovak: Kliešte (nástroj)
pliers in Serbian: Klešta
pliers in Swedish: Tång (handverktyg)
pliers in Turkish: Kargaburun
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