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Two types of modern-day conventional metal tweezers with pointed tips
A pair of bronze tweezers attributed to the Minoan civilization, c. 2900–1050 B.C.

Tweezers are small hand tools used for grasping objects too small to be easily handled with the human fingers. Tweezers are thumb-driven forceps most likely derived from tongs used to grab or hold hot objects since the dawn of recorded history. In a scientific or medical context, they are normally referred to as just "forceps", a name that is used together with other grasping surgical instruments that resemble pliers, pincers and scissors-like clamps.

Tweezers make use of two third-class levers connected at one fixed end (the fulcrum point of each lever), with the pincers at the others. When used, they are commonly held with one hand in a pen grip between the thumb and index finger (sometimes also the middle finger), with the top end resting on the first dorsal interosseous muscle at the webspace between the thumb and index finger. Spring tension holds the grasping ends apart until finger pressure is applied. This provides an extended pinch and allows the user to easily grasp, manipulate and quickly release small or delicate objects with readily variable pressure.

People commonly use tweezers for such tasks as plucking hair from the face or eyebrows, often using the term eyebrow tweezers. Other common uses for tweezers are as a tool to manipulate small objects, including for example small, particularly surface-mount, electronic parts, and small mechanical parts for models and precision mechanisms. Stamp collectors use tweezers (stamp tongs) to handle postage stamps which, while large enough to pick up by hand, could be damaged by handling; the jaws of stamp tongs are smooth. Another example of a specialized use is picking out the flakes of gold in gold panning. Tweezers are also used in kitchens for food presentation[1] to remove bones from fillets of fish in a process known as pin boning, and are as tongs used to serve pieces of cake to restaurant patrons.


Gold tweezers recovered from the Royal Cemetery of Ur, Iraq 2550-2450 B.C.
Illustration of Hyksos-era tweezers from Gaza

Tweezers are known to have been used in predynastic Egypt. There are drawings of Egyptian craftsmen holding hot pots over ovens with a double-bow shaped tool. Asiatic tweezers, consisting of two strips of metal brazed together, were commonly used in Mesopotamia and India from about 3000 BC, perhaps for purposes such as catching lice.[2] During the Bronze Age, tweezers were manufactured in Kerma.[3]

The word tweezer comes from etwee which describes a small case that people would use to carry small objects (such as toothpicks) with them. Etwee takes its origin from French étui "small case" from the Old French verb estuier, "to hold or keep safe." Over time, the object now known as "tweezers" took on this name because the tool was commonly found in these tiny carrying cases. Eventually, the word "tweeze" was accepted as a verb in the English language.

There is evidence of Roman shipbuilders pulling nails out of construction with plier-type pincers.


Flat tip conventional tweezers
A pair of modern-day round-tipped tweezers

Tweezers come in a variety of tip shapes and sizes.[4] Blunt tip tweezers have a rounded end which can be used when a pointed object may get entangled, when manipulating cotton swabs, for example. Flat tip tweezers, pictured at right, have an angled tip which may be used for removing splinters. Some tweezers have a long needle-like tip which may be useful for reaching into small crevices. Triangular tip tweezers have larger, wider tips useful for gripping larger objects. Tweezers with curved tips also exist, sometimes called bent forceps. Microtweezers have an extremely small, pointed tip used for manipulating tiny electronic components and the like.

There are two common forms of construction for tweezers: two fused, angled pieces of metal, or one piece of metal bent in half. The bent tweezer is cheaper to manufacture, but gives weaker grip. The fused tweezer is more expensive, but allows for a stronger grip. The width between the tips of the tweezers when no force is applied also affects how powerful the grip is.

Cross-locking tweezers

Cross-locking tweezers (aka reverse-action tweezers or self-closing tweezers) work in the opposite way to normal tweezers. Cross-locking tweezers open when squeezed and close when released, gripping the item without any exertion of the user's fingers.

Usage of traditional tweezers

Ceramic-tipped tweezers. Heat resistant and non-magnetic
Tweezers in use in a laboratory


Other kinds of tweezers

The original tweezers for mechanical gripping have given rise to a number of tools with similar action or purpose but not dependent upon mechanical pressure, including

Other uses of the same principle are named tweezers; although such terms are not necessarily widely used their meaning is clear to people in the relevant field. E.g., Raman tweezers, which combine Raman spectroscopy with optical tweezers.[8]

See also


  1. ^ Tocantweezer (December 2015). "Christmas Bakery – Santa Claus Cake Made With Gerald Tweezers". Archived from the original on 2015-12-22. Sourceforge project. (CC-BY-SA)
  2. ^ Childe V (1963). The Bronze Age. Archives of civilization. Vol. 3. Biblo & Tannen Publishers. ISBN 978-0-8196-0123-0.
  3. ^ Bianchi RS (2004). Daily Life of the Nubians. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-313-32501-4.
  4. ^ "Eyelash made in different sizes and shapes". 2 July 2019.
  5. ^ Ashkin A, Dziedzic JM, Bjorkholm JE, Chu S (May 1986). "Observation of a single-beam gradient force optical trap for dielectric particles". Optics Letters. 11 (5): 288–290. Bibcode:1986OptL...11..288A. doi:10.1364/ol.11.000288. PMID 19730608.
  6. ^ Jin Y, Xu W, Zhang H, Li R, Sun J, Yang S, et al. (January 2022). "Electrostatic tweezer for droplet manipulation". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 119 (2). Bibcode:2022PNAS..11905459J. doi:10.1073/pnas.2105459119. PMC 8764671. PMID 34992136.
  7. ^ "Multimeter/LCR Meter tweezers". Archived from the original on July 19, 2013. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  8. ^ Hewett J (27 February 2002). "Raman tweezers probe living cells". Archived from the original on March 3, 2008. Retrieved 2020-01-17.