or cal·li·per

See more synonyms for caliper on
  1. Usually calipers. an instrument for measuring thicknesses and internal or external diameters inaccessible to a scale, consisting usually of a pair of adjustable pivoted legs.
  2. any of various calibrated instruments for measuring thicknesses or distances between surfaces, usually having a screwed or sliding adjustable piece.Compare vernier caliper.
  3. thickness or depth, as of paper or a tree.
  4. Usually calipers. the pincers of an earwig.
  5. Automotive. the part of a disc-brake assembly that straddles the disc and presses the brake pads against it.
  6. a similar part used with a hand brake on a bicycle.
verb (used with object)
  1. to measure with calipers.
verb (used without object)
  1. to use calipers.

Origin of caliper

First recorded in 1580–90; presumably variant of caliber Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for caliper

Historical Examples of caliper

  • In case the bottom surface is used, 0.150 must be deducted from the reading of the caliper.

  • It is a 26-inch caliper, and will caliper up to 34 inches diameter.

  • Then the legs are closed to remove the caliper, and are reset to the scribed line.

  • Then remove the caliper and measure the distance between the caliper points.

  • The method of adjusting a spring caliper is shown at Fig. 174, H.

    Aviation Engines

    Victor Wilfred Pag

British Dictionary definitions for caliper


  1. the usual US spelling of calliper
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 caliper

1620s, short for calliper compass (1580s), a device used to measure caliber (q.v.). Related: Calipers.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

caliper in Medicine


  1. An instrument consisting essentially of two curved hinged legs, used to measure thickness and distances.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

caliper in Science


  1. An instrument consisting of two curved legs connected at a hinge, used to measure thickness and distance. Often used in the plural as calipers.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.