What Does Jaws of Life Mean?

Jaws of Life Meaning

Definition: Hydraulic spreader-cutters; a tool used to cut people out of something they are stuck in after a bad car accident or other emergencies.

This expression is used as an informal nickname for a specialized type of tool, and therefore is always used as a noun.

Origin of Jaws of Life

This tool was invented in the year 1972, and one of the inventors, Mike Brick, gave it the nickname jaws of life because it had the ability to save people from the jaws of death, meaning to save people from almost certain death.

Examples of Jaws of Life

hurst jaws of lifeHere is an example of the idiom being used by two college students who have been watching a serious auto accident.

Robin: Look how many cars are piled up in this accident.

Harry: I know. It looks like there are about seven of them.

Robin: I’m shocked there are any survivors!

Harry: I think most people already got out of their cars and moved to safety.

Robin: There’s someone still stuck in that first car. It looks like the car is so crushed that they can’t get out.

Harry: Look! They’re going to use the Jaws of Life to help them escape.

Robin: Wow! I’ve never seen that before. I hope that person is okay.

meaning of jaws of life expressionIn this dialogue two co-workers discuss why a third person has a broken leg and is wearing a cast.

Mal: What happened to Peter?

Xiomara: He was in a terrible car accident. His car was so crushed that he couldn’t get out. The fire department had to come and remove him with the Jaws of Life. They got him out just in time. He could have died!

More Examples

The idiom is used in this article about a bad traffic accident.

  • Houston firefighters used the Jaws of Life to pry the car apart and extricate the driver after the accident at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday at the Hillcroft exit, according to Metro Video. –Houston Chronicle

This newspaper uses the idiom to describe how it was difficult to remove the victim from the car.

  • “They kept him like that for close to 20 minutes until the paramedics came and the Fire Department cut him out of the car with the ‘Jaws of Life,’ ” said Rahsaan A. Gordon, the lawyer who represented the plaintiff.  –Chicago Sun Times


Jaws of life is a nickname for a tool that can cut people out of strong material when they are stuck.