[tawngz, tongz]

noun (usually used with a plural verb)

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]


verb (used with object)

to lift, seize, gather, hold, or handle with tongs, as logs or oysters.

verb (used without object)

to use, or work with, tongs.

Origin of tong

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]


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

Origin of tong

1880–85, Americanism; < dialectal Chinese (Guangdong) tòhng, akin to Chinese táng meeting hall Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for tongs

pliers, forceps

Examples from the Web for tongs

Contemporary Examples of tongs

  • Cook until the underside is a deep golden brown, then flip the grispelle with tongs and brown the other side.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Italy's Best Dessert Secret

    Rosetta Costantino

    December 9, 2010

Historical Examples of tongs

British Dictionary definitions for tongs


pl n

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 for tongs

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



verb (tr)

to gather or seize with tongs
to curl or style (hair) with curling tongs




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

Word Origin for tong

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


see hammer and tongs.

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