Scissor or Scissors – What’s the Difference?

Today, handheld cutting tools are ubiquitous in human society. In the developed world, a child’s ability to adroitly wield a pair of scissors is viewed as an important developmental milestone.

Have you ever wondered where the word scissors originated, or why you almost never hear of a single scissor? Why does everyone seem to want more than one of these tools when asking for them or writing about them?

If you have ever been confused about this unusual linguistic construction, continue reading to learn more.

What is the Difference Between Scissor and Scissors?

In this post, I will compare scissor vs. scissors. I will use each of these words in at least one example sentence. This way, you can see them in context.

Plus, I will share a mnemonic device that makes choosing either scissor or scissors a simple matter.

When to Use Scissors

scissor versus scissors What does scissors mean? Scissors is a plural noun. Scissors are two handheld blades fastened together that are used for cutting things. Scissors are usually referred to in the plural or as a pair of scissors.

Here are a few more examples,

  • Each child in the classroom had a pair of safety scissors that he or she could use for crafts and various other school activities.
  • Margery was accused of murdering her husband by stabbing him with a pair of scissors.
  • Tom Brady was back at Patriots practice Tuesday after a few days off “to take care of something,” he told reporters, something apparently different than the thumb he sliced with scissors right before New England’s preseason game last Thursday against the Chicago Bears. –The Washington Post

Humans have been using scissors for at least 3,000 years. They are a very useful tool for cutting a variety of materials, including paper, rope, wire, and cloth.

The word itself can be traced to equivalent terms in English and Middle French. Interestingly, the original Latin form of this word was singular and was derived from a verb that meant to cut.

When to Use Scissor

definition of scissors definition of scissor definitionWhat does scissor mean? Scissor is the singular version of the same noun. It is almost never used, much the same way that bellows are nearly always referred to in the plural. As noted above, the default singular form would be a pair of scissors.

Some English speakers might use scissor as a verb that means to cut something with scissors or to cut between something. This usage is viewed as nonstandard in the linguistic community, though it may eventually gain acceptance.

Here is how such a sentence might look,

  • In a fit of rage, Elena grabbed her mother’s fabric shears and began to scissor her ex-boyfriend Matt out of all of the couple’s pictures.

In this sense, it means the same thing as “cut,” which is a much better choice for such a sentence.

Trick to Remember the Difference

In general, this tool is always referred to in the plural, like in the phrase hand me the scissors. The closest singular form would be a single pair of scissors, as in the phrase hand me that pair of scissors. In your own writing, you should default to scissors as well.

Scissors vs. Scissor Check: Since it would be difficult to cut something with one half of a pair of scissors, remember to always refer to this device as plural, like scissors or a pair of scissors.

Summary

Is it scissors or scissor? Scissors are handheld shearing tools that are useful for cutting many things. They are almost always plural or referred to as a pair of scissors. Thus, the singular scissor is almost never used.

To summarize,

  • The plural scissors is used in most senses.
  • The singular scissor is rarely used.