This article's lead section contains information that is not included elsewhere in the article. If the information is appropriate for the lead of the article, this information should also be included in the body of the article. (July 2023) (Learn how and when to remove this message)
Two gimlets

A gimlet is a hand tool for drilling small holes, mainly in wood, without splitting. It was defined in Joseph Gwilt's Architecture (1859) as "a piece of steel of a semi-cylindrical form, hollow on one side, having a cross handle at one end and a worm or screw at the other".[1]

A gimlet is always a small tool. A similar tool of larger size is called an auger. The cutting action of the gimlet is slightly different from an auger and the initial hole it makes is smaller; the cutting edges pare away the wood, which is moved out by the spiral sides, falling out through the entry hole. This also pulls the gimlet farther into the hole as it is turned; unlike a bradawl, pressure is not required once the tip has been drawn in.

The name gimlet comes from the Old French guinbelet, guimbelet, later guibelet, probably a diminutive of the Anglo-French wimble, a variation of "guimble", from the Middle Low German wiemel (cf. the Scandinavian wammie, 'to bore or twist'). Modern French uses the term vrille, also the French for "tendril".[2]

Use as a metaphor

The term is also used figuratively to describe something as sharp or piercing, and also to describe the twisting, boring motion of using a gimlet. For example, the gimlet cocktail may be named after the tool.[3] The term gimlet-eyed can mean sharp-eyed or squint-eyed; one example of this use is Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, who was known as "Old Gimlet Eye".

Further reading


  1. ^ Joseph Gwilt (1859), Architecture
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd. Edition, (1989)
  3. ^ "gimlet". Archived from the original on 14 June 2023. Retrieved 2 September 2023.