1. a person or thing that nips.
  2. Usually nippers. a device for nipping, as pincers or forceps.
  3. one of the two large claws of a crustacean.
  4. Metalworking. dog(def 13).
  5. nippers, Older Slang. handcuffs.
  6. Informal.
    1. a small boy.
    2. Chiefly British.a costermonger's helper or assistant.
  7. Nautical. a short rope for seizing an anchor cable to a messenger from a capstan.

Origin of nipper

First recorded in 1525–35; nip1 + -er1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for nippers

lad, boy, youngster, child, biter

Examples from the Web for nippers

Historical Examples of nippers

  • Bluenoses have no use for nippers, as Britishers call apprentices.

    All Afloat

    William Wood

  • Also, the cable is brought-to when fastened to the messenger by nippers.

    The Sailor's Word-Book

    William Henry Smyth

  • The surging or slipping of the cable when the nippers do not hold.

    The Sailor's Word-Book

    William Henry Smyth

  • To clap on nippers closely, just at starting the anchor from the ground.

    The Sailor's Word-Book

    William Henry Smyth

  • A policeman came in from the street and put the nippers on him.

    Halsey & Co.

    H. K. Shackleford

British Dictionary definitions for nippers


pl n
  1. an instrument or tool, such as a pair of pliers, for snipping, pinching, or squeezing


  1. a person or thing that nips
  2. the large pincer-like claw of a lobster, crab, or similar crustacean
  3. informal a small child
  4. Australian a type of small prawn used as bait
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 nippers



"small boy," 1859, originally (1530s) a pickpocket who "pinched" other people's property; see nip (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper