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[tool] /tul/
an implement, especially one held in the hand, as a hammer, saw, or file, for performing or facilitating mechanical operations.
any instrument of manual operation.
the cutting or machining part of a lathe, planer, drill, or similar machine.
the machine itself; a machine tool.
anything used as a means of accomplishing a task or purpose:
Education is a tool for success.
a person manipulated by another for the latter's own ends; cat's-paw.
the design or ornament impressed upon the cover of a book.
Underworld Slang.
  1. a pistol or gun.
  2. a pickpocket.
Slang: Vulgar. penis.
verb (used with object)
to work or shape with a tool.
to work decoratively with a hand tool.
to ornament (the cover of a book) with a bookbinder's tool.
to drive (a vehicle):
He tooled the car along the treacherous path.
to equip with tools or machinery.
verb (used without object)
to work with a tool.
to drive or ride in a vehicle:
tooling along the freeway.
Verb phrases
tool up, to install machinery designed for performing a particular job:
manufacturers tooling up for production.
Origin of tool
before 900; Middle English (noun); Old English tōl; cognate with Old Norse tōl tools; akin to taw2
Related forms
tooler, noun
toolless, adjective
multitool, noun
untooled, adjective
1. T ool , implement , instrument , utensil refer to contrivances for doing work. A tool is a contrivance held in and worked by the hand, for assisting the work of (especially) mechanics or laborers: a carpenter's tools. An implement is any tool or contrivance designed or used for a particular purpose: agricultural implements. An instrument is anything used in doing a certain work or producing a certain result, especially such as requires delicacy, accuracy, or precision: surgical or musical instruments. A utensil is especially an article for domestic use: kitchen utensils. When used figuratively of human agency, tool is generally used in a contemptuous sense; instrument , in a neutral or good sense: a tool of unscrupulous men; an instrument of Providence. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for tool


  1. an implement, such as a hammer, saw, or spade, that is used by hand
  2. a power-driven instrument; machine tool
  3. (in combination): a toolkit
the cutting part of such an instrument
  1. any of the instruments used by a bookbinder to impress a design on a book cover
  2. a design so impressed
anything used as a means of performing an operation or achieving an end: he used his boss's absence as a tool for gaining influence
a person used to perform dishonourable or unpleasant tasks for another
a necessary medium for or adjunct to one's profession: numbers are the tools of the mathematician's trade
(slang) another word for penis
(Brit) an underworld slang word for gun
to work, cut, shape, or form (something) with a tool or tools
(transitive) to decorate (a book cover) with a bookbinder's tool
(transitive) often foll by up. to furnish with tools
when intr, often foll by along. to drive (a vehicle) or (of a vehicle) to be driven, esp in a leisurely or casual style
Derived Forms
tooler, noun
tool-less, adjective
Word Origin
Old English tōl; related to Old Norse tōl weapon, Old English tawian to prepare; see taw²
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for tool

Old English tol "instrument, implement," from Proto-Germanic *tolan (cf. Old Norse tol), from a verb stem represented by Old English tawian "prepare." The ending is the instrumental suffix -l (e.g. shovel). Figurative sense of "person used by another for his own ends" is recorded from 1660s. Slang meaning "penis" first recorded 1550s.


"to drive a vehicle," 1812, probably from tool (n.). The meaning "to work or shape with a tool" is recorded from 1815; that of "equip (a factory) with machine tools" is from 1927. Related: Tooled; tooling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for tool

too hot to handle

adjective phrase

Very delicate or explosive; very controversial: The March was rejected by PBS as ''not suitable to their programming'' (nobody actually said it was too hot to handle)

[1940s+; found in baseball by 1932, designating a very hard-hit ball]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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tool in Technology

1. A program used primarily to create, manipulate, modify, or analyse other programs, such as a compiler or an editor or a cross-referencing program. Opposite: app, operating system.
2. A Unix application program with a simple, "transparent" (typically text-stream) interface designed specifically to be used in programmed combination with other tools (see filter, plumbing).
3. (MIT: general to students there) To work; to study (connotes tedium). The TMRC Dictionary defined this as "to set one's brain to the grindstone". See hack.
4. (MIT) A student who studies too much and hacks too little. MIT's student humour magazine rejoices in the name "Tool and Die".
[Jargon File]

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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