1 of 3

noun (1)

: a handheld device that aids in accomplishing a task
: the cutting or shaping part in a machine or machine tool
: a machine for shaping metal : machine tool
: something (such as an instrument or apparatus) used in performing an operation or necessary in the practice of a vocation or profession
a scholar's books are his tools
: an element of a computer program (such as a graphics application) that activates and controls a particular function
a drawing tool
: a means to an end
a book's cover can be a marketing tool
slang, vulgar : penis
: one who is used or manipulated by another
And then there was former trainer Pfeil, viewed as another tool of management for his gruff ways.Sam Smith
informal : a foolish or unlikable person : jerk
Before you compete on a reality TV show, you basically sign away your right to protect yourself from looking like a total tool in front of an international viewing audience.Steve Tilley
tools plural : natural ability
has all the tools to be a great pitcher


2 of 3


tooled; tooling; tools

intransitive verb

: drive, ride
: to equip a plant or industry with the means (such as machines, machine tools, and instruments) of production
often used with up

transitive verb

: to shape, form, or finish with a tool
especially : to letter or ornament (something, such as leather or gold) by means of hand tools
: to cause (a vehicle) to go : drive
: to convey in a vehicle
: to equip (a factory, an industry, etc.) with tools, machines, and instruments for production


3 of 3

noun (2)

: a design (as on the binding of a book) made by tooling
Choose the Right Synonym for tool

implement, tool, instrument, appliance, utensil mean a relatively simple device for performing work.

implement may apply to anything necessary to perform a task.

crude stone implements
farm implements

tool suggests an implement adapted to facilitate a definite kind or stage of work and suggests the need of skill more strongly than implement.

a carpenter's tools

instrument suggests a device capable of delicate or precise work.

the dentist's instruments

appliance refers to a tool or instrument utilizing a power source and suggests portability or temporary attachment.

household appliances

utensil applies to a device used in domestic work or some routine unskilled activity.

kitchen utensils

Examples of tool in a Sentence

Verb We tooled along the highway. He tooled a design on the leather belt. a belt made of tooled leather
Recent Examples on the Web
That Communist-era drama concerned a female taxi driver who’s similarly tooling around Bucharest, her misery equal to that of Manolache’s contemporary Angela, even though Jude’s protagonist seemingly lives in a freer society than the one once ruled by Nicolae Ceaușescu. Tim Grierson, Los Angeles Times, 20 Mar. 2024 Sculptor Jean Jinho Kim (the only local in the lineup) and painter Don Voisine offer pieces that are tooled with machine-like precision. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, 1 Mar. 2024 As far back as 200 million years ago, the fossil record shows us that hermit crabs were already tooling around shopping for homes discarded by mollusks. Popsci Staff, Popular Science, 28 Feb. 2024 Along the way, stop at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park to check out a pop-up event or let the kids run on the playground, pop into the Tampa Museum of Art for the latest exhibition, or rent a paddleboard from Urban Kai to tool around the Hillsborough River. Terry Ward, Travel + Leisure, 25 Feb. 2024 Robert Randolph was tooling around Florida when the call came. David Browne, Rolling Stone, 13 Feb. 2024 While in his mid-twenties, Olea would tool around the Key — or take a jaunt to Coconut Grove — with a carload of teenage girls. Clara-Sophia Daly, Miami Herald, 26 Jan. 2024 Most Tool songs do sound tooled—that is, painstakingly built, rather than written. Kelefa Sanneh, The New Yorker, 17 Jan. 2024 Each of the many phishing centers answers to Derek Danforth (Josh Hutcherson), a douchey 28-year-old rich-kid cokehead who tools around his office on a skateboard in extraordinarily ugly outfits (that puke-green suit!) and bad highlights. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 10 Jan. 2024
My tool of choice is the Little Martin’s baby nail trimmer, which has a rougher attachment for adults that’s effective and easy to control. Jane Herman, Vogue, 7 Apr. 2024 These enigmatic sites carry the visitor back to a time when writing and metal tools were unknown, farming was a still novel idea, and stone monuments established a community’s presence on the landscape. Dan Falk, Discover Magazine, 6 Apr. 2024 Facilitating Remote Collaboration In an age of remote work and virtual collaboration, communication tools are essential for staying connected with colleagues and clients. Ebony Flake, Essence, 5 Apr. 2024 Under this definition, the tool wrongly identified 20 out of the 84 samples NPR submitted. Huo Jingnan, NPR, 5 Apr. 2024 Many lawmakers from both parties have said the app could endanger American users’ private data or be used as a Chinese propaganda tool. Sapna Maheshwari, New York Times, 4 Apr. 2024 OpenAI, not to be outdone, releases fine-tuning tools for its GPT models, also aiming for business customers. Sage Lazzaro, Fortune, 4 Apr. 2024 The tool produces an overall water score that is then balanced with other factors like job creation and average salary. Daniel Rothberg, Smithsonian Magazine, 26 Mar. 2024 Smaller artifacts such as coins, jewelry, cooking tools, bowls, knives and a padlock were found in the drain pipes and moat. Aspen Pflughoeft, Miami Herald, 26 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'tool.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Noun (1)

Middle English, from Old English tōl; akin to Old English tawian to prepare for use — more at taw

First Known Use

Noun (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1812, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2a

Noun (2)

1881, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of tool was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near tool

Cite this Entry

“Tool.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
: a device (as a hammer, saw, knife, or wrench) used or worked by hand or by a machine
: something used in doing one's job as if it were a tool
a scholar's books are his tools
: something that helps to gain an end
hard work is a tool for success
: a person used by another : dupe


2 of 2 verb
: to shape, form, or finish with a tool
: to equip a plant or industry with machines and tools for production

More from Merriam-Webster on tool

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