in gear,
    1. the state in which gears are connected or meshed: The car is in gear.
    2. in proper or active working order; functioning continuously without trouble: Every department in this company must be in gear at all times.
    in/into high gear, in or into a state of utmost speed, activity, or efficiency: Military rearmament moved into high gear.
    out of gear, Machinery. in the state in which gears are not connected or meshed: The engine is out of gear.
    shift/switch gears, to change one's attitude, course of action, methods, etc., in an abrupt, dramatic, or unexpected manner: In the middle of the second act the play shifts gears from comedy to tragedy.

Origin of gear

1150–1200; Middle English gere < Old Norse gervi, gørvi; akin to Old English gearwe equipment
Related formsgear·less, adjectivere·gear, verbun·geared, adjectivewell-geared, adjective

Synonyms for gear Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for gear

British Dictionary definitions for gear



a toothed wheel that engages with another toothed wheel or with a rack in order to change the speed or direction of transmitted motion
a mechanism for transmitting motion by gears, esp for a specific purposethe steering gear of a boat
the engagement or specific ratio of a system of gearsin gear; high gear
personal equipment and accoutrements; belongings
equipment and supplies for a particular operation, sport, etcfishing gear
nautical all equipment or appurtenances belonging to a certain vessel, sailor, etc
short for landing gear
informal up-to-date clothes and accessories, esp those bought by young people
  1. stolen goods
  2. illegal drugs
a less common word for harness (def. 1)
in gear working or performing effectively or properly
out of gear out of order; not functioning properly


(tr) to adjust or adapt (one thing) so as to fit in or work with anotherto gear our output to current demand
(tr) to equip with or connect by gears
(intr) to be in or come into gear
(tr) to equip with harness
Derived Formsgearless, adjective

Word Origin for gear

C13: from Old Norse gervi; related to Old High German garawī equipment, Old English gearwe
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 gear

c.1200, "fighting equipment," probably from Old Norse gervi "apparel," related to gerr "ready," and gerva "make ready," from Proto-Germanic *garwin- (cf. Old English gearwe "clothing, equipment, ornament;" Old High German garawi "clothing, dress," garawen "to make ready;" German gerben "to tan"). Meaning "toothed wheel in machinery" first attested 1520s. Slang for "male sex organs" from 1670s. British adjective slang sense of "stylish, excellent" first recorded 1951, from earlier that's the gear, expression of approval, 1925.


c.1200, "to equip oneself for fighting; dress," probably from gear (n.). Related: Geared; gearing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Science definitions for gear



A wheel with teeth around its rim that mesh with the teeth of another wheel to transmit motion. Gears are used to transmit power (as in a car transmission) or change the direction of motion in a mechanism (as in a differential axle). Fixed ratios of speed in various parts of a machine is often established by the arrangement of gears.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with gear


see high gear; slip a cog (gear).

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