c.1300, "device like a screw or winch for bending a crossbow or catapult," from O.Fr. vis, viz
"screw," from L. vitis
"vine, tendril of a vine," lit. "that which winds," from base of viere
"to bind, twist" (see withy
). The meaning "clamping tool with two jaws closed by a screw" is first recorded 1500.