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[tawngz, tongz]
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noun (usually used with a plural verb)
  1. any of various implements consisting of two arms hinged, pivoted, or otherwise fastened together, for seizing, holding, or lifting something (usually used with pair of).

Origin of tongs

see origin at tong1
Can be confusedthongs tongs tongues


[tawng, tong]
  1. tongs.
verb (used with object)
  1. to lift, seize, gather, hold, or handle with tongs, as logs or oysters.
verb (used without object)
  1. to use, or work with, tongs.

Origin of tong1

before 900; 1865–70, for def 2; Middle English tong(e) (singular), tongen, tonges (plural), Old English; cognate with Dutch tang, German Zange pair of tongs or pincers; akin to Greek dáknein to bite
Related formstong·er, noun
Can be confusedthong tong tongue


[tawng, tong]
  1. (in China) an association, society, or political party.
  2. (among Chinese living in the U.S.) a fraternal or secret society, often associated with criminal activities.

Origin of tong2

1880–85, Americanism; < dialectal Chinese (Guangdong) tòhng, akin to Chinese táng meeting hall
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for tongs

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British Dictionary definitions for tongs


pl n
  1. a tool for grasping or lifting, consisting of a hinged, sprung, or pivoted pair of arms or levers, joined at one endAlso called: pair of tongs

Word Origin

plural of Old English tange; related to Old Saxon tanga, Old High German zanga, Old Norse tong


verb (tr)
  1. to gather or seize with tongs
  2. to curl or style (hair) with curling tongs


  1. (formerly) a Chinese secret society or association, esp one popularly assumed to engage in criminal activities

Word Origin

C20: from Chinese (Cantonese) t'ong meeting place
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

Word Origin and History for tongs


Old English tange, tang "tongs," from Proto-Germanic *tango (cf. Old Saxon tanga, Old Norse töng, Swedish tång, Old Frisian tange, Middle Dutch tanghe, Dutch tang, Old High German zanga, German Zange), literally "that which bites," from PIE root *dank- "bite" (cf. Sanskrit dasati "biter;" Greek daknein "to bite," dax "biting"). For sense evolution, cf. French mordache "tongs," from mordre "to bite."


"Chinese secret society," 1883, from Cantonese t'ong "assembly hall."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with tongs


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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