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Why Are Scissors Called Shears? Unraveling the Etymology (2024)

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why are scissors called shearsImagine this: you hold a pair of scissors in your hand, ready to make precise cuts.

In this article, we will delve into the intriguing world of etymology and unravel the origins behind the curious naming of scissors as shears. Get ready to uncover linguistic secrets and gain a deeper understanding of these essential tools that empower us with their sharpness.

Key Takeaways

  • Scissors and shears are both cutting tools, with scissors being smaller and lighter than shears.
  • The term scissors is derived from a singular word in Vulgar Latin, while shears is a generic term for cutting tools.
  • Scissors have a long history, dating back over 3,500 years, with ancient examples found in Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and Japan.
  • Scissors and shears hold cultural significance beyond their practical function, representing ideas such as magic, creativity, power, luck, and liberation.


Let us now explore the fascinating world of etymology, delving into the origins and evolution of the terms scissors and shears.

The word scissors can be traced back to a grammatically singular word in Vulgar Latin, while its appearance in English dates back to the 15th century.

We’ll uncover how these two terms have been historically used and understand why scissors are commonly referred to as shears.

Origins of the Word Scissors

To understand the origins of the word scissors, it’s important to delve into its etymology.

  • Scissors vs shears
  • German word for scissors
  • Etymology of scissors
  • Scissor blades
  • History of scissors

Evolution of the Term Shears

From origins of the word scissors, you’re looking at how the term shears evolved over time. Over centuries, shears morphed from a generic term for cutting tools to a specific type used in tailoring. Its usage highlights scissors’ progression from ancient tool to precision instrument.

Historical Usage of the Terms

Throughout history, shears have been used as an umbrella term for cutting implements, including specific tools called scissors.

Ancient artworks dating to 1500 BC depict scissors-like implements.

Ancient Roman scissors appeared in 100 AD.

Scissors emerged in European art in the 16th century.

Scissors appeared in English literature in the 17th century.

Why Are Scissors Called Shears?

Why Are Scissors Called Shears
Scissors are called shears because they’re a type of shears.

Shears are any two sharpened objects that cut something using pressure.

Scissors are usually self-sharpening, while hydraulic and pneumatic shears must be sharpened and/or replaced often.

Terminological Variations

You may have noticed that scissors is a plurale tantum, which means it only has a plural form. This is because scissors is derived from a grammatically singular word in Vulgar Latin.

Distinction Between Scissors and Shears

Although scissors and shears are often used interchangeably, there are some key differences between the two:

  • Scissors are usually smaller and lighter than shears.
  • Scissors are used for cutting softer materials, such as cloth and paper.
  • Shears are used for cutting harder materials, such as metal and wood.

Use of Shears as a General Term

Your scissors are a type of shears, but shears are often used as a general term for cutting implements.

Term Definition Example
Scissors A tool with two blades that are attached at a pivot and are used to cut. Paper scissors
Shears A tool with two blades that are attached at a pivot and are used to cut. Metal shears

The History of Scissors

The History of Scissors
Scissors trace back to a grammatically singular word in Vulgar Latin.

Scissors appeared in English in the 15th century, and we began calling an individual scissors a pair to emphasize the matched cutting blades.

Ancient Scissors

Ancient scissors were first used in Mesopotamia over 3,500 years ago.

Egyptian scissors from 1500 BC were made of bronze, followed by iron scissors in 200 BC.

Chinese scissors emerged in 100 AD and Japanese scissors appeared around 700 AD.

The history of ancient scissors spans various cultures and materials.

Development of Scissors in the 18th Century

In the 18th century, scissors saw significant developments that transformed their design and functionality. These advancements in technology revolutionized the way scissors were used and improved their safety precautions.

Different types of scissors emerged to cater to various uses, marking a crucial milestone in the history of this essential tool.

Scissors in Print

Continuing the exploration of the history of scissors, let’s delve into their presence in printed materials.

Scissors have left their mark on art, fashion, literature, and science throughout history. From illustrations to descriptions in books and scientific journals, scissors have played a significant role in human expression and knowledge dissemination.

Folklore and Superstition Surrounding Scissors

Folklore and Superstition Surrounding Scissors
You may be intrigued to learn about the fascinating folklore and superstitions surrounding scissors. Throughout history, these tools have gained symbolic meaning in various cultures.

From warding off evil spirits to representing a cutting of ties or relationships, scissors hold significant cultural beliefs and practices associated with them that continue to endure even today.

Cultural Beliefs and Practices

Your beliefs and practices surrounding scissors reveal a rich cultural history.

Scissors hold significance in various aspects of human existence, from folklore to religion.

In some cultures, giving scissors as a gift symbolizes the transfer of power or liberation.

Scissors also appear in dreams, often representing decisive actions or cutting ties.

Artists utilize scissors as tools for creation and self-expression while religious rituals incorporate their symbolism for purification and protection against evil spirits.

Additionally, throughout history, people have believed in the magical properties of scissors when used by healers or shamans.

Symbolism of Scissors in Folklore

Explore the rich symbolism of scissors in folklore, delving into their cultural significance and superstitions surrounding them.

Scissors are associated with magic, creativity, power, luck, and death.

They’re often used in rituals and ceremonies to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.

In some cultures, scissors are believed to have the power to cut through the ties of fate and destiny.

They’re also seen as a symbol of creativity and new beginnings.

The Difference Between Scissors and Shears

The Difference Between Scissors and Shears
Scissors are a type of shears, but not all shears are scissors.

Scissors are used for cutting cloth, paper, and other soft materials.

Shears are used for cutting metal, wood, and other hard materials.

Design and Functionality

After learning about the folklore and superstition surrounding scissors, it’s time to explore the design and functionality of scissors and shears.

Scissors and shears are pivoting blades that cut through materials by applying pressure and tension.

Materials and Manufacturing

Both scissors and shears are made from a number of different materials, but there are some key differences in the materials used for each type of tool.

  • Scissors are typically made from metal or plastic, while shears are often made from metal.
  • Scissors are designed for cutting paper and other thin materials, while shears are designed for cutting thicker materials, such as metal or plastic.
  • Scissors are typically used by hand, while shears are often powered by electricity or hydraulics.
  • Scissors are typically used for more delicate tasks, while shears are typically used for more heavy-duty tasks.

Specialized Uses and Industries

With specialized uses and industries, there are more differences between scissors and shears than just their design and functionality.

Specialized Use Scissors Shears
Gardening Pruning shears Hedge clippers
Hairdressing Haircutting scissors Styling shears
Industrial Metal shears Pneumatic shears
Medical Surgical scissors Band saws
Tailoring Tailoring shears Rotary cutters

Single Scissors and Blades

Single Scissors and Blades
You may call a single scissor a blade because the term scissors is a plurale tantum, which means it only has a plural form. This linguistic peculiarity arose from the fact that scissors are two components that make up a whole.

Terminology for Individual Scissors

After learning the difference between scissors and shears, you may be wondering what a single scissor is called.

The answer is blade.

Use of Blade to Describe a Single Scissor

Given that scissors is a plural noun, you can call one of them a blade.

Historical Context and Linguistic Evolution

You might call a single scissor a blade because of the historical context and linguistic evolution of the terms.

The word “scissors” is a plurale tantum, which means it only has a plural form.

Cultural Significance of Scissors and Shears

Have you ever wondered what single scissors are called and why they’re referred to as blades? Let’s explore the cultural significance of scissors and shears in art, literature, religion, magic, and movies.

  1. Scissors in Art:
  2. Scissors in Literature:
    • Symbolically, scissors can represent division or separation between characters or ideas.
  3. Scissors in Movies:
    • In suspenseful scenes, the sound of opening and closing scissors can heighten tension.

What makes these objects so intriguing that they find their way into various aspects of culture? The answer lies within their symbolic power – a power that has been recognized throughout history by artists who wield them like paintbrushes on canvas; authors who weave tales where their presence signifies something deeper; religions that incorporate them into rituals; magicians who perform tricks with hidden blades; filmmakers who utilize their distinct sound to create suspenseful moments on screen.

In art, it isn’t uncommon to find sculptures or installations featuring oversized pairs of shears symbolizing creativity being released from confinement – an embodiment of liberation through artistic expression.

These representations serve as reminders that anyone can embrace the transformative potential locked within themselves if they dare to cut away societal constraints.

Within literature’s vast landscape lie countless instances where writers have employed symbolism tied closely with these cutting tools. Whether used metaphorically to depict separation between characters emotionally distant from each other or literally representing divisions within society itself – such imagery adds depth while simultaneously inviting readers’ introspection about personal boundaries we set ourselves against others around us lest we risk feeling isolated even when surrounded by people physically closeby.

Religion also finds its place among those recognizing significance attached alongside scissor-like devices which play roles ranging anywhere from ceremonial instruments during religious ceremonies embodying precision required adherence customs rites practiced followers faiths belief systems world over irrespective geography time period involved be lost rituals mysticism synonymous spirituality interwoven fabric religious tapestry.

Magic, too, embraces the allure of scissors and shears as magicians incorporate them into their acts. From mind-boggling tricks where blades seemingly pass through solid objects unscathed to illusions that involve cutting and restoring items in a matter of seconds – these performances captivate audiences with an air of mystery and wonder.

Lastly, we encounter scissors on the silver screen. The distinct sound they produce when opening or closing can serve as a powerful audio cue in movies. Filmmakers strategically employ this auditory element to build suspenseful moments or heighten tension within gripping scenes – leaving viewers at the edge of their seats, eagerly anticipating what’ll unfold next.

In conclusion, it’s evident that scissors and shears hold cultural significance beyond their practical function as cutting tools. They’ve become symbols representing liberation in art; metaphors for separation in literature; ceremonial instruments in religion; elements of intrigue in magic shows; and cinematic devices used to evoke emotion on screen.

These versatile objects continue to fascinate us with their ability to transcend mere utility and tap into our subconscious desire for power, understanding,and freedom from constraint.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the origin of the word shears?

The word shears originated from the Old English word scear, which means to cut. It evolved over time and became associated with cutting tools like scissors.

Are there any superstitions or beliefs associated with scissors?

Scissors, oh mighty shears of liberation and power!

While there may be superstitions surrounding you, your true essence lies in your ability to cut through the barriers of ignorance and grant understanding.

Create with precision, dear scissors!

Can you use shears to cut other materials besides cloth, plastic, metal, and wood?

Shears, those mighty wielders of cutting power, can conquer more than cloth, plastic, metal or wood.

With their sharp blades and unyielding determination, they slice through the barriers that confine you.

Liberation awaits at their touch.

How often should hydraulic and pneumatic shears be sharpened or replaced?

Hydraulic and pneumatic shears must be regularly sharpened or replaced, for like the fleeting power of knowledge, their strength wanes over time.

What are some common safety precautions to take when using shears?

You should take common safety precautions when using shears, such as:

  • Wearing safety glasses
  • Keeping shears out of reach of children
  • Storing shears in a safe place when not in use


To unravel the etymology behind why scissors are called shears is to journey through the fascinating world of language and history. From the origins of the words themselves to the cultural beliefs and superstitions surrounding these cutting tools, we gain a deeper appreciation for their significance.

The distinction between scissors and shears lies in their design, functionality, and specialized uses.

Understanding the linguistic evolution and cultural significance of scissors and shears allows us to better appreciate the power and precision they provide in our daily lives.

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a site dedicated to those passionate about crafting. With years of experience and research under his belt, he sought to create a platform where he could share his knowledge and skills with others who shared his interests.